Thursday, December 30, 2010


 Yesterday I remodeled two bikes. Bikers like to talk about builds as in "this is my second build for this bike." A build is a biker's nirvana. It's when you hand pick every component for a bike, and then you build it up from scratch. It's a labor of love and the result is your dream bike. Bikers talk about builds like parents talk about honor role students.

I have never done a complete build, but I have done some remodels. Like moving bars and seats between bikes, replacing a fork or crank, and converting a bike to single speed. Yesterday I did my latest remodel, resurrecting my silver Iron Horse from the parts bin. Yesterday I put gears on it, added a spanking new crank, and voila I now have a perfectly ridable hard tail.

So today I took it for a shake down ride in the snow. Trail reports were not encouraging, but the trails turned out to be in good condition. Not great, but not bad. It was the type of riding that keeps you on your toes, and forces you to use good technique especially on uphills and off-camber turns. And Silver was a great ride, no issues except it appears I've contaminated the brake rotors with some lube since I was unable to lock up the wheels even downhill on the snow. We'll keep an eye on that.

So now I have a winter beater bike with gears (and marginal brakes), which is great timing. You will understand why when I make an exciting announcement on New Year's day.

Oh and someone went chainsaw crazy and removed the horse-back-rider-scraper-offer at the top of the Sole Trail. And yes the horses were out in force...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Mix It Up

I have a bothersome tendency - maybe it's human nature - to ride the same trails, the same way, time after time. You find a route you like and you stick with it because. well, you like it. Except that after a while you you're bored by it and you actually don't like it. But you're riding it, again.

Yesterday at White Clay, we did many of the classic routes but we mixed them up a bit. We rode the Goat Trail downhill which I thought gave it more pucker factor. The Cork Screw (can only be ridden one way) was interesting as it was covered in leaves so you really had to trust there were no surprises (logs, rocks) hidden underneath. And we hit a bunch of trails in Middle Run which I hadn't seen in years. 
Norman Rockwell Scene

And by taking these new routes, we ran into a memorable Norman Rockwell scene: three dads and their kids playing hockey on a small frozen pond out in the middle of the woods.

It's more interesting this way - mixing things up - and I think it's better conditioning when your body doesn't know what's coming next (or at least isn't "used to" it). I'm going to do more of this in 2011. Be less of a lemming.

Burrito Illegal
Oh and we did another very un-lemming-like thing. We ended at Rincon Tarasco in Downingtown.

So one reshuffled White Clay ride, three "Burrito Illegals" at Rincon Tarasco, and six Rolling Rocks later, we were pretty darn pleased with ourselves...


P.S. And speaking of mixing it up, we had a real "Super Star" song mix for the ride to Delaware.  What a bunch of animals we are...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Andy was ginning up a Chelsy's ride for Wednesday night, but I had already committed to a Thursday morning ride at White Clay, and I wanted all my marbles for that ride. Plus they were parking their trucks in Downingtown so they could end the ride at Chelsy's. I thought that was more like a Shirley Temple ride. In a real Chelsy's ride, we stop in town mid-ride.  That was we have the always entertaining ride home after Chelsy's.

The phone rang around 9:00 and I ignored it.  I was very comfortable on the couch with my daughter, and not particularly interested in getting an earful on the phone from a bunch of well-lubricated  mountain bikers. Eventually I found my way to the phone and out of curiosity checked for messages. Here is what I found (and yes it was in ALL CAPS):
The message was from Andy and it was about 30 minutes old. I called him and learned that Jim's carbon fiber bar had failed catastrophically on the Blue Trail descent to the Struble (we call this section "The Bobsled Run"). He had obviously crashed pretty spectacularly. Mike was already down there loading Jim and his bike into a car, and they weren't thinking hospital...but there would be no Chelsy's for Jim tonight.

I am reminded of the adage that with carbon fiber components you get "strong, light, and inexpensive - pick any two."  It sounds like Jim got a good deal on some lightweight components.

Anyway I'm glad Jim is OK and sorry for missing the call.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Gaining Some Lost Ground

Carving the Bonus Loop
With Friday night's bonfire, Saturday night Christmas caroling, and the seemingly endless supply of home made cookies available in our house I have lost some serious ground over the last 48 hours. Mike and I decided to  reclaim some lost territory with an early afternoon ride.

It feels like we gained a lot. 

Views were pretty spectacular, about half the lake is now frozen. Trails were fast and frozen for the most part, but soft enough to add some pucker factor to the fast hillside descent by the Dorlan Mill ruins. Ran into some other bikers, including MikeM and Mark on the Lakeside Trail and an enthusiastic foursome whooping it up on the teeter. Carefully hopscotched around some black ice patches on the rocky climb.

Now I think I'll have some cookies and watch the Eagles game...give back some of the territory I just gained.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Disaster (Narrowly) Averted, Again

The bonfire was laid, most of the provisions were staged, and the trail to the firepit was lit by kerosene torches that KO had thoughtfully placed every 20' along the treacherous 25° downhill section. Four years worth of experience were paying off with a smooth running operation. Who would have thought that near disaster would strike before we even saddled up for the opening event?

Site of the Near Disaster
KO was shuttling some last minute supplies to the bonfire site. He was on a 4WD ATV pulling a toboggan loaded with firewood, propane, and kerosene. The downhill section was tricky, and the toboggan clipped one of the torches, dumping about a quart of burning kerosene into the dry underbrush. We fought the spreading fire valiantly, trying to stomp it out with our feet and then to smother it with the toboggan. Luckily, and to KO's credit, have had included a fire extinguisher in the load of combustibles and was able to extinguish the fire before it become a headline.

Kirk's Colorful Custom Light Setup
With disaster averted, we hooked up a couple of loaner lights and KO rigged his custom light setup. Eleven riders shoved off in the 25° temps for the obligatory loop down the Struble, up the Quarry Trail, and back down Blue Trail for the mad dash "home" to the comfort of the beer and bonfire. One rider defied physics by riding in shorts and two left-hand fingerless gloves. While we had no "mechanicals" we did have one "electrical" (a dead light) through a nasty section of railroad ties, which resulted in a front wheel twisting 90° and sending one rider flying after jamming him in the stomach with the bar end. That's basically a punch in the stomach, followed by a body slam onto the frozen ground, all in total darkness.

8' Bonfire
We completed the circuit and were greeted by DC on our return (he had a busy day). We ignited the fire (flames estimated at 8' high), commenced aggressive rehydration, began devouring the pot of piping hot chili that MR had lovingly prepared the night before, and then settled in around the bonfire.

I know a lot of people were there to see the much ballyhooed fire jumping contest, but it never got off the ground. It's always a challenge to find someone to kickoff that particular competition, and with AS out and MR retiring early, we were utterly lost.  But this is an industrious lot, and it did not take long to find a new mind-numbingly-stupid activity to fill the void. It had something to do with improvised fireworks, and it culminated in a glowing mortar fragment bouncing off JR's chest, leaving his eyes as big as saucers and a neat (and no doubt hard to explain to the wife) burn hole in his sweater. Luckily we closed that chapter before anyone got seriously disfigured.

MM Entry
MR Entry
SM Entry (burning)
Of course, in addition to the adolescent behavior traditionally exhibited at this event, we enjoy more cerebral pursuits. Like the best beer presentation. This year's entries were well executed and covered a lot of ground:
  • Entry #1 - Jenna's ample cousin Delila (beer in hand thanks to KO and a roll of duct tape) was strong in the category of "anatomical curiosities." The cerebral element came to play when the disoriented group realized the only reliable way to find your way is to "check which way the feet are pointing."  Everyone agreed this was a profound and useful insight,
  • Entry #2 - A festive comic-book themed beer rack was a welcome G-rated counter balance to entry #1. 
  • Entry #3 - the combination porta-potty/beer cooler complete with cup holder, DBDC monogrammed toilet paper, magazine rack, baby-wipe dispenser, and mountain bike tire accent on the movable lid.  
If the competition were based on points alone, entry #3 would have won hands down, but alas the "must burn" requirement was not met by either of the last two entries, so the title was awarded, on a technicality, to Entry #1.

The remainder of the evening (and morning) were consumed primarily by bike porn (guys gushing over TH's long travel fork), KO's uselessly frozen elastomer fork, and the occasional exploding (frozen) beer. Temperature at this point had dipped to 15°. We reluctantly threw in the towel around 3:00am.

Thanks to everyone who braved the elements last night, and especially to MR for the most awesome chili, to MM, SM, and MR for their competitive and creative spirit, to KO for letting us trash his back yard, and to everyone else for riding bikes in this stupid cold weather, and making the event memorable.


"We all get it in the end"
     - unknown

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Friday's Line Up

AccuWeather predicts a balmy 30 degrees at the 8:00 departure time, loaner lights are charging for Dougerty and Vermeil, the garage lights have been on pretty late at the McLaughlin residence, and we've got a good count for Friday's descent into the depths of debauchery Bike Bonfire and Beer Exchange. With any luck we will rival last year's turnout of 17 riders...and let me tell you, the sight of all those headlamps bobbing and weaving through woods at night is truly a sight to behold. But then again the sight of an incinerating plastic blowup doll is pretty impressive as well...

Anyway I have heard encouraging news from SF, SM, KO, TP, MR, RV (and son), MY, DM, MM, RI (and others), CD, and DC (hopeful but a lot going on with move).
Others have been kind of quiet, either planning a sneak attack or hoping to fly under the RADAR (on the couch). I would be remiss if I didn't call out a few notables: AS, JA, AD, BG, MH, and Jenna.

Everyone feel free to turn the screws on the notables, I shouldn't have to do all the dirty work.

That's all for now. 


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Just About Perfect

Forecast for Friday
Well if you like firm fast trails for riding, crisp dry conditions for bonfiring, and below freezing temps for keeping your beer cold then I guess this forecast looks just about perfect for Friday's Bike-Bonfire-and-Beer-Exchange-Palooza.

We'll rally behind Kirk's house at 7:30pm so we can clip in and start spinning at 8:00pm.  Feel free to drop off your gear ahead of time (it's a bit of a hilly hike from the cul-de-sac to the bonfire site by the creek).  Let me know if  any questions.

Oh and don't be the guy sipping merlot at the neighbor's or warming the couch at home on Friday night.  No, don't be that guy.



Harmony Hill with just enough mud and death cookies to keep you focused.  There was a price to pay for straying off the left side of the trail.

I'm learning to ride gears again.  My riding frequency is down and the SS is beating up my knees. It really is amazing what a difference in riding style, you actually forget how to ride gears effectively. For example I keep forgetting to stay seated and spin through the uphill technical stuff.

I came here yesterday to avoid the hunters. The trail network has really blossomed over the last few years, and it's only a 10 minute drive (or a 30 minute ride).  More Harmony Hill in the near future...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

2010 Bike Bonfire and Beer Exchange Fun Quiz

Following is the 2010 Bike Bonfire and Beer Exchange Fun Quiz. All characters, companies, products and events described in this fun quiz are fictitious, and no similarity with any real persons or entities, living or deceased, is intended or should be inferred.

AS's wife knows that if AS goes to the bonfire that their dental deductible will be paid before the end of December.
  • True
  • False

DC took the fire jumping contest to new heights when he attempted to jump the bonfire:
  1. With two feet
  2. With a bicycle
  3. With a garden tractor
  4. While soaked in kerosene

In the last two bonfires MY has:.
  1. Laughed and Cried
  2. Laughed and Danced
  3. Flown and Danced
  4. All of the above

Last year MH impersonated Dr. Henry Kissinger so that he could:
  1. Bring world peace
  2. Be first in line for hot chili
  3. Throw Jenna into the fire
  4. None of the above

At the 2007 bonfire MR left the party early (and mad) and was about to walk into his house when he decided to go back to the bonfire to take a swing at one of the other riders.
  • True
  • False

The ladies panties that CD gave to SM as a gag gift were actually from :
  1. CD's wife 
  2. SM's sister 
  3. Both CD's wife and SM's sister 
  4. The Cougar at Chelsey's

The day after the 2008 bonfire when MR could not find his Best Beer Presentation contest entry, he accused MO7S of destroying the family heirloom. He was upset because of the rule that all entries must burn to be eligible. Where was the family heirloom?
  1. In the fire pit (ashes)
  2. Somewhere east of Downingtown in the Brandywine Creek
  3. Safely stashed in his truck parked in his driveway
  4. None of the above

The "MRDBS" sign nailed to a tree on the Bonus Loop stands for:
  1. MR's Deep Brain Stimulation
  2. MR's Drunken Bike Shop
  3. MR's Drunken Brain Stimulation
  4. None of the above

One of our riders MM was nicknamed "DB4."  In his case "DB" stands for
  1. Diamond Back
  2. Douche Bag
  3. Double Black-diamond
  4. Diarrhea Bubble

TP's commitment to mountain biking is suspect because:
  1. His other bike is a motorcycle
  2. His front fork is a lefty
  3. All of the above
  4. None of the above

What was The Cougar's opening line at Chelsea's?
  1. "You guys from around here?"
  2. "Is that a spanner wrench in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?"
  3. "I'm no spring chicken, but I am a cougar!  Grrrrrrr!"
  4. "I need to get me some Irish meat and potatoes!"

DM purchased a bike off eBay "because it looked cool." Too bad for him because this bike has an unfortunate tendency to:
  1. Debit his PayPal account
  2. Fold in half when traversing uneven ground
  3. None of the above
  4. All of the above

Match the rider with the riding outfit or accessory that they DID wear on at least one ride:
  • Riders
    1. RV
    2. DM
    3. JA
    4. DC
    5. BG
  • Outfit/accessory: 
    1. Flesh-tone leotards
    2. Bootyliscious booties with pink trim
    3. Skate-boarder helmet
    4. Wool sport coat
    5. Green polka-dot union suit

SF is one of the few with a trail named after him.  This trail is called:
  1. SF's demise
  2. The Bonus Loop
  3. SF's mud pit
  4. Sidewinder

KO is considered an anti-social mountain biker because he:
  1. Brings rotten wood to the bonfire
  2. Rides while listening to an iPod
  3. Won't chew tobacco (except once in the BVIs)
  4. All of the above

After someone crashes RI has been known to say:
  1. "Pain is temporary, glory is forever"
  2. "Chicks dig the dirty ones"
  3. ”I’d rather have a brother that was gay than a cousin that was a roadie"
  4. 1 and 2

Please click the comment link at the bottom of this post to record your answers. The winner will get a free ride with SM to the windowless Video-X-Press in Malvern to shop for party favors.