Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Knife at a Gunfight

Beer presentations were all functional
but only one burned
"I don't see what's so great about standing around, outside, at night, in the middle of December, drinking beer from a toilet." I could not dispute the technical aspects of her argument, but somehow the more sublime aspects of last night's bonfire were not resonating with my daughter...

The evening started with the customary ride. After climbing the new Quarry Bypass into the park and pausing to share a flask of Root, we dashed across the park to The Bobsled Run. Mindful that KO was on his wife's beach cruiser and not wanting any drama to delay the start of the bonfire we (thought we) bypassed the rock garden by the ruins. But it turns out our pack of 10 riders had bifurcated and of course KO's half detoured straight into the rock garden. Somehow the bike and rider survived and we regrouped at the top of The Bobsled Run for some more Root and the mad dash to the comfort of the beer and the bonfire. The Bobsled descent was punctuated with a lot of woo-hoo's, a little cursing, and a couple of busted spokes on MS's SFurly. Watching the lights of the last few riders snake down that trail was magical, one of those rare scenes that only occurs on night rides with large groups.
Knife at a gunfight? KO wife cruiser
 with kickstand and book rack
Random note: We started with 10 riders and ended with 11. That never happens. Generally if we start with 10 riders we are lucky to end with 8. Good mojo last night.
Back at the bonfire, the chili was bubblin', the beer was chillin', the best beer presentation entries were being scrutinized by the judges. Both entries scored high on functionality (seems to be a theme at these bonfires). The DBDC entry looked vaguely familiar, scored high for incorporation of Wet Wipes and imaginative use of vulcanized rubber accents. The Porcelain Goddess entry scored high for classic lines and it's "upper deck" potential. Stiff competition but the judges job was easy because in the end only one entry burned ("must burn to win" provision in contest rules). MM took the title in '11.

Planning for next year commenced during this morning's cleanup and yes, some changes are in store for '12. But for now we'll just celebrate the memories of '11, starting with this Bike Rider Bonfire and Beer Exchange Fun Quiz:

1. You know the best beer presentation contest at the annual Beer Bonfire and Beer Exchange has reached new lows when the judge's discussion centers around:
A) Gooners and Upper Decks
B) Nessies and Groovers
C) The smell of burning vulcanized rubber
D) All of the above
2. At the '11 Bike Ride, Bonfire, and Beer Exchange RV caused a stir by
A) QuestioningHermosa Tours' use of the Groover
B) Admitting that he had once "glassed" a guy who wasn't using a groover
C) Never walking farther that 15' from the bonfire to relieve himself
D) All of the above
3. This morning the neighborhood awoke to see MR's contest entry
A) On the roof of his house
B) In the back of his truck
C) Trailside overlooking the brandywine
D) Next to the firepit

We'll close this post with some wisdom from last night's ride:

Never Bring a Knife to a Gunfight...unless of course the gunfight is a mountain bike ride, and the knife is your wife's beach cruiser.
Happy Holidays,

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Inverse Proportion

23.5 degrees Fahrenheit at
7:58am eastern standard 
This time of year with the frequent freeze/thaw cycles can be difficult riding. Oh sure, a little mud and blood spices up any ride, but slogging through persistently soggy trails can become a bit of a drag.
So it is widely held in mountain biking circles that this time of year, trail conditions and temperature are inversely proportional. That is to say, the colder the better. We tested that theory today. When we rolled at 8:00am the temperature was 23.5°, trails were wicked fast, grip was outstanding, and frost crusted bridges provided some welcome pucker factor.

Let's delve into this inverse proportion thing.

If the following:
F = the fun factor and
T = temperature 
Then mathematically speaking:
F = 1 / T
Now let's apply the universal mountain biking "fun" constant of 100 because everyone knows that mountain biking is at least 100x as much fun as anything else you could be doing (except of course what TP wasn't doing this morning because he was mountain biking). So then:
F = 100 x 1 / T
That pegs today's fun factor at 4.35 (100 x 1 / 23.5). If today's ride is any indication, then a fun factor in the 4s is pretty darn fun. I checked the blog, and in 2009 we rode a fun factor in the 14s, that sounds almost illegal. But if we take this to the logical extreme (T=0°) then we are just a couple dozen degrees from INFINITY! Now wouldn't THAT be fun?


"Keep riding, Nancy. It's just water and dirt." 
     --- Huck And Roll

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Answers to The Questions

I can't wait to see what questions get answered at this month's Bike, Bonfire, and Beer exchange. Following are some burning questions that got answered last year :

1. MM's entry in the Best Beer Presentation contest was disqualified because:
a) Someone dropped a deuce in it while he wasn't looking
b) The material in the magazine rack wasn't "edgy" enough
c) It wasn't sacrificed to the mountain biking Gods
d) The TP was scratchy because of the stickerse) all of the above
2. Last year RV brought some contraband that had to be confiscated so we could relax around the bonfire. What did he bring?
a) A jar of home made "Mountain Dew"
b) A baggie full of Mauwie Wauwie
c) A baggie full of fireworks
d) iPod video "The Opening of Misty Beethoven"
3. You know for sure that Jenn'a older sibling really likes you if: 
a) She has a beer duct-taped to her hand
b) Her toes are pointed toward you
c) Her toes are pointed away from you
d) All of the above
4. You know it is cold at the annual Bike, Bonfire and Beer exchange when:
a) People start burning blowup dolls to keep warm
b) Beer cans start spontaneously exploding
c) None of the above
d) All of the above
Can't wait... 

"It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how."
     --Dr. Seuss

Winter Rides

Morning frost in the sunligh
Winter rides are special. The trails are (mostly) still frozen, fast, with great traction. Brilliant blue sky. Trees in the open fields cast silver frost shadows on the grass. The air is crisp and cool and I am comfortable in shorts with a couple of light layers on top. When I stopped to take this picture, I could hear a cacophony of water droplets falling from the trees (frost melting).

Sometimes that's how it is. Spiritual. Peaceful. Sublime.


"Cycling is like church-many attend but few understand"
     -- Jim Burlant

Monday, November 21, 2011

"I Have a Plan"

On Friday I got this enigmatic text from my daughter: "Wat time r u going to b home? I have a plan."

I have a plan...

...I figured what possibly could be better than starting the weekend than with a 15 year old that has a plan? And I was right. Her plan was to produce a music video and she told me that she would need the following:

  1. Three video cameras and a couple of tripods
  2. Direct access to some of my biking buddies
  3. A few hours with me in my biking clothes
  4. My unwavering trust and commitment to her vision
It was fascinating being a bit player in this mysterious master plan - watching her interview my friends, direct me to "bike up that hill", and setup and take down cameras and tripods. She even convinced my wife to drive the car around the neighborhood car while she took time lapse pictures from the passenger seat.

Sunday afternoon she hunkered down in front of her computer - clicking like mad and occasionally laughing out loud. That evening she proudly shared her rough cut edit with me, and what had been a whirlwind of seemingly disjoint activities suddenly came into sharp focus. It's really quite remarkable when you throw yourself at the mercy of your kid and they reward you with something so creative.


"It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how."
     --Dr. Seuss

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Even When it Sucks, It's Fun!

I knew it would be a beat down.  Oh it started off innocently enough early Sunday morning. Six cars in the local bike shop parking lot. Crisp cool air, lots of bikes, and freshly baked oatmeal cookies. But there was no kidding myself, it would be a beat down.

An hour later we were at Fair Hill and six thousand acres of sweet single track was begging to be ridden. And ride we did. After a couple of hours and of awesome single track, some modest attrition, and some scenic rest stops (throwing banana peels in front of other riders), I was hanging off the back of the pack - barely. My tank was more empty than full and my legs were talking to me.  The beat down phase was commencing.  At three hours in, my thighs were past they were like cement, on the verge of cramping up completely. Yet while my body was screaming at me in protest,  my mind wasn't listening because it was having too much damn fun... that weird?


"Suffering has a luminous beauty, and cleanses the mind in much the same way a wildfire clears an overgrown forest." 
     -- Mike Ferrentino

“Art is suffering." 
     -- Squidward Tentacles

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Happy Endings

Someone forwarded an email to the biking group - a coupon offer from a LBS for "Bicycle Therapy" (tune-up, inner tubes, and accessory discount). Following are priceless excerpts from that short-lived email thread:

AF> Don't know this shop but thought some of you could use this ["Bicycle Therapy" ad]

CD> I signed my aluminum hardtail bike up for a "happy ending" therapy session.  They said it is totally legal and that my bike would ride like a Moots Ti frame afterward... 

MM> Yeah but after a few minutes it's gonna want to take a nap

MR> This can't end well...

AF> It only lasted 2 minutes anyway

I just thought that thread deserved to be immortalized (or banished into oblivion - whatever it is that happens when things get posted on this blog).


"Beware of all enterprises that require a change into Lycra"
     -- Unknown

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lord(s) of the Flies

The GPS had given up half a mile ago. I was 200 miles from home, somewhere in the forests of central Pennsylvania. The driveway was empty. Nobody answered my knock so I stepped inside the cabin. Lots of taxidermy on the walls - no doubt there would be a gun in here somewhere.

I saw some R/C stuff on the table and relaxed a little. (Rob had talked about bringing some toys). I was 60% sure I had the right cabin, but that would be little comfort staring down the barrel of a shotgun held by an irate hillbilly homeowner. I slipped up the stairs and peered into the kitchen...and when I saw the Peanut Butter Captain Crunch I knew I had found it. The Chalet (and The Cabin). Base of operations for over a dozen Downingtown area mountain bikers on their annual pilgrimage to the trails of Raystown.

Friday night festivities started that evening with carb loading at Boxers Pub.  It was kind of like home, the Y-bike still hanging over the bar, and the young waitress was still sporting those dreads. After dinner we strolled over to The Cabin to visit the other half of the crew and get jacked up about tomorrow's ride.  Martin laid down the law by calling for a 9:30am departure, and so we tucked ourselves in at The Chalet before midnight with dreams of mountain bikes and buff singletrack dancing in our heads.

The Chalet was stirring at sunrise. Two pots of coffee, a pan of pumpkin breakfast thing-a-ma-jiggers, and a monster breakfast fritatta later, we were loaded up and knocking on the door of The Cabin. It was 9:20am.  By 9:21 it was obvious we had a problem. The Cabin was in a different time zone (some still jockeying for the bathroom), probably hours from saddling up, so six of us headed to the trailhead.

The Raystown trails are deceptively fast. Long downhill runs that beg you to go a LOT faster than you should, and are loaded with back-to-back rollers and whoop-dee-doos determined to throw you over the handlebars.  The combination is lots of speed, short duration flights, giggles, and smiles. We rode the outer loops, all left turns.  I can;t remember the names of all the trails but we finally got the whole crew together at The Hydro Loop. After high-fives, some snacks, and a few laughs we rode the loop.  Fifteen minutes of mountain biking awesomeness with excellent flow and bermed turns that swept down near the lake and through loamy pine groves. It is an old growth forest, so the sight lines are fantastic.  From a pure flow perspective, this is probably the best singletrack I have ever seen anywhere. We hammered the heck out of that thing.

After lunch some of the guys took another spin on the west side of Seven Points Road, while others (myself included) spent the afternoon at Rothrock Outfitters ogling at the Salsa Mariachi frames and Pugsly demo bikes.  Later that night we drifted over to The Cabin for a bonfire, warmed ourselves with Root and Snap and whatever else was on hand, considered the flammable nature of magnesium bike frames, burnded about 2 cords of wood, melted a beer bottle, and marveled at Jesse's ability to speak "french" in her sleep.

On Sunday we were back on the bikes, hammering that sweet singletrack before the long drive home.

It was sort of a "Lord of the Flies" meets "Race Across the Sky" weekend.  Is it weird that I'm already dreaming about next year?


“Like dogs, bicycles are social catalysts that attract a superior category of people” 
      - Chip Brown

P.S. As much as we enjoyed the "toilet seat up" format for the weekend, the wives contributed in big ways. Like supplying us with loads of high-carb home cooking (think Fritatta, breakfast bread, lasagna, etc). And by giving us the go ahead to waste a perfectly good weekend acting like a bunch of 12 year olds.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Grass Roots

Apparently word is spreading. Beer and bikes at the overlook. Last Friday's happy hour drew riders from as far away as Vermont!

...well...A rider...

...but still, that's pretty respectable for a grassroots BYO happy hour in the middle of the woods.

I had been pushing the pedals for about an hour before the meet up. With eight guys there was plenty of banter and I was mellowing on the beer and contemplating a relaxed ride home. But Don and his chrome plated Biamchi singlespeed from Vermont were creating quite a stir in the group and before I could do the mental math (Beers + Dusk + NoLights = TimeToGoHome) we were racing for the Double Bonus Loop.

Boys will be boys.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fortunate Accident

Sure, summer promises endless days of awesome riding. Early morning sunrise rides. Short sleeve sunset rides. Beers on the overlook. A seemingly endless supply. Hard to beat.

But autumn beats it. It's not even close. The cool and dry weather is perfect for long rides, and we're in pretty good shape after a long summer of riding.  The sun is intense but stays low on the horizon, creating dramatic shadows in the woods. The sightlines and views improve, and the leaves are like colored confetti covering the forest floor. The sweet smell of the leaves is intoxicating, and the knowledge of winter just around the corner adds a tinge of urgency to every ride.

This autumn morning I woke in the hills of western Maryland near West Virginia.  After coffee I slipped out of camp for a couple of hours of awesome single track east of Accident. The trails here are spectacular - plenty of climbs and descents, rock gardens, great flow, massive stands of pine with a thick soft blanket of pine needles on the ground, deciduous forest packed with vivid oranges and reds, and stunning farmland vistas. It was heaven. Or church. Not sure which but that's what it was.


"Cycling is like church-many attend but few understand"
     -- Jim Burlant

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sunshine and Unicorns

Alcohol will be the answer
this Friday at the overlook.
It's been exactly one month since I last felt that old familiar feeling.  The feeling of real fatigue that comes from dropping the hammer for a couple of hours.

Today's ride was  especially sweet.  Some faces we haven't seen in a while (Tom).  A surprise pickup on the way back from the Bonus Loop (Jim). Brilliant sunshine mixed with the sweet smell of autumn leaves on the ground.

But it wasn't all sunshine and unicorns out there today. We dodged a trip to the ER (wrist) when Mike performed the seemingly impossible (and now legendary) stationary endo.  Starting from a dead stop, he stepped on the crank, and propelled himself straight over the handlebars. With 108 days on the crash counter I guess we were due.


P.S. We capped the ride off with some advance Happy Hour planning. We may crank out some miles before hand, but rest assured we'll be in our spandex hoisting a few cold ones at the overlook @ 5:30.

"Safe biking is no accident"
     -- unknown

Monday, September 26, 2011

Check Engine

Dropped the car off at CarSense for some service this evening (state inspection, oil change, check engine light) then rode the bike home. Not thrilled with road riding, but within 0:10 I was safely off the roads and in the woods by the Bonus Loop.  Another 0:20 and I was at the boat ramp, with enough time to bang around the west side of the park before heading home.

Great idea (thanks MikeR), almost makes it worth the "bend over and grab your ankles" phone call I will probably be getting from CarSense tomorrow afternoon.


"Two wheels good, four wheels bad."
     - unknown

P.S. Only one out of the last six blog posts has involved a BIG ride. That's sad. I better get busy or else Allegrippis (October) will be a Beat Down instead of a Big Ride.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Maybe Too Late

 I got a surprise today...and I don't think it's a good one.

I was recently started getting some oil leakage, so I figured I would take a peek inside and change the oil in the lowers while I was in there. The oil is now changed. But I have a nasty wear spot on the left stanchion. Perhaps a bushing problem, but I don't have the tools or expertise to change that.

Might be too late anyway.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Kids These Days

A washout is forecasted for this weekend, so I had to sneak in an "insurance" ride this morning.  Glad I did it, the ride was beautiful.  Banks of fog lingering in the trees and a few slippery roots/rocks to keep me on my toes. Two feet of rain since August has torn up the bottom of the Quarry Trail pretty good, be careful if you are bombing that downhill.
Tangent: In the reading room this morning when flipping through an old issue of Outside magazine I saw an article on electric assist bicycles. It reminded me of a recent experience I had flying out of my driveway only to find myself abreast of a very pleasant grandmotherly woman on an electric bike pedalling (barely)  up the gentle but long Kaiser Drive climb.
Tangent on the tangent: We see few cyclists on this part of Kaiser.  If we do, it is either an avid cyclist (road or mountain) or it is a teenager pushing their bike up the hill. Nothing against teenagers (I have a wonderful one of my own), but jeeze what the heck!?
Back to original tangent: Anyway there I was on the long climb through the neighborhood, riding next to grandma and exchanging pleasantries. Her bike looked like a beach cruiser and had a basket on the front and streamers on the handlebars. She was barely pedalling. I was spinning my ass off and barely keeping up. I hung in there but it soon dawned on me this would not be sustainable.
And finally it happened. We hit the plateau at the top of the neighborhood and she picked up a few mph. With 32x20 gearing on my singlespeed I could no longer spin fast enough to keep up. I watched helplessly as she dropped me, singing to herself, the pink and purple streamers flowing from her swept back handlebar grips.  She waved goodbye and disappeared around the corner.
I am imagining that later that day, after her husband's afternoon nap, her ruminating about some friendly but obviously sluggish young man on a bike.  "Jeeze!" she would say," kids these days..."

“I'll take the Pain and Humiliation Combo, super-sized” 
     - unknown

Sunday, September 18, 2011

They're Like Little People

Ruth has been threatening to do it.  Yesterday, over my objections, I think she finally did it.

She pitched one of my water bottles.

For months she has been saying that they are disgusting.  I've tried appealing to her motherly instincts by saying "it's not the outside that matters, it's what's on the inside" asserting that the inside of the bottles is clean and perfectly healthy.  "They're like little people" I said.

Apparently she was unimpressed.

And apparently I will now have to start hiding them.


"Keep riding, Nancy. It's just water and dirt."
     - Huck And Roll

The Light

I am reminded of the mosquito in the movie Bug's Life who was drawn to the mesmerizing light of the bug zapper.  "It's So Beautiful" he said.  It ended badly for him, but not so for us. And in this case the attraction was beer.  A stroke of genius really - we're now drinking our beer during the happy hour  ride instead of after.

This time it started at the Thursday morning bus stop with Rob's innocent inquiry.  "You guys doing a happy hour ride tomorrow?"  I knew then that I would not be drinking alone.

Friday morning I sent the customary email reminder.  I knew it would be slim pickin's since some regular riders had commitments and others I fear have sworn off mountain biking since the Colorado trip (I'll post on that in the future).  But MikeM chimed in that he was stuffing a couple of Blues in his pack, so I had a sense of momentum building.

The anointed time (5:00) arrived at the boat launch.  Mike was rolling in.  Rob had brought Zoey (so now we were four souls).  That's when Bob rolled in all smiles and ready to ride (I think Bob is always ready to ride).  We headed toward the Bonus Loop and by the time we got to the totter, Zoey was a little gassed so we headed down to the new trail which has a natural hangout-and-drink-beer spot overlooking the lake...this is where we ran into JimM.  Jim was heading home after his Friday ride, was no doubt thirsty, and succumbed readily to the siren call of beer by the lake.

So in the end it was six souls for the Friday happy hour. And yes it was "so beautiful."  Can't wait until next Friday!


"Life is not so short but that there is always time enough for one more ride."

Monday, September 5, 2011

Ass Handed

I got my ass handed to me yesterday.

After failing to round up the "regulars" for a weekend ride I decided to join a ride posted on the dtownmtb yahoo group.  Eight other riders had the same idea. That's a good size group for a mountain bike ride.

I LOVE group rides - the social aspects as well as the opportunity to learn new skills and push yourself.  This ride was no different and I'm a little sad but mostly glad to say I blew up near the end of our ride.  We spent the day finding climbs I never knew existed in that park.
Tangent: we decided after the ride that there is a propensity for humans to ride loops clockwise (e.g., we like right hand turns better than left hand turns). So we spent the day riding the WCMR loops counter-clockwise which meant: (1) the trails all felt new, (2) we ran risk of collision with high speed descender, and most importantly (3) we found some grueling uphill climbs.
Now I could blame my explosion on the lack of gears, but I wasn't the only one in the group riding a single-speed.  The end started while climbing near the skills course.  My quads started to cramp whenever I stood up on the pedals.  Never in six years of riding had my quads cramped.  Not once in five days of brutal climbing in Colorado.  The quad cramp was disconcerting because that's a big muscle (even on my spindly legs) and I knew that if it got out of control I would be basically incapacitated (and probably in a world of hurt).

I have always carried some electrolyte capsules in my pack (schwagg from some race). I dropped a couple of them in desperation.  A long shot but the only shot I had.  Within ten minutes I was able to stand a pedal without cramping.  I was still slow, but at least I was pedaling.


  1. I will ALWAYS have some of the Heed stuff in my back pack
  2. I will be a much better rider if I keep riding with this group
  3. I need to decide what bike to bring to Raystown (I love that Rig but I don't want another blowup)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Secret

Creative Playthings Bridge
This morning I went riding on the local trails for probably the 500th time. Seriously 6 years, 1-2 local rides per week, that's like 468. It adds up. So these are old familiar trails, right?  I should have known better.

The lake was like glass, with some whisps of fog and a lone fisherman lit by the soft morning sun.  The hurricane had left the trails soft and littered with sticks and leaves, but totally rideable. The air was cool. A cup of strong coffee was clearing my head and I was riding fast, thinking about the 61 minute lap time I had logged last week (could I come close this morning)?

I crested the hill before the Creative Playthings bridge at speed. Most of you know the drop onto that  bridge is getting sketchy. A downhill log drop followed by a tight rutted downhill turn that dumps you right onto a narrow bridge. Once you are over the log you are way to stop or bail out. As my front wheel rolled onto the bridge I looked up and saw that the bridge was UNDER WATER (bridges are supposed to go OVER water). Three thoughts flew through my mind as I rolled across:

  1. How deep is it?
  2. Oh shit it's going to be slippery I am going down
  3. I'll fall into 3' of water it should be a soft landing 

By the time the third thought occured, I was across the bridge. A little wet but upright and still rolling. Of course I had to stop for pictures, so the 61 minute ride time would be safe. I was more cautious for the remainder of the ride, wondering what would be around the next corner. Remarkable how a familiar home trail can still throw a curve at you from time to time.


P.S. The secret to last week's 61 minute Bonus Loop time: broken seatpost.  Pedalling out of the saddle for 90% of the ride keeps you movin'.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Fast Donkey

Good news, this morning I did the Full Bonus Loop in 61 minutes.  That's door to door from Lower Lyndenwood.  For me that's a record.  Bad news I may have broken Rob's USE seatpost.  I hope I'm wrong.  Will look at it tonight.

This next part is going to be too much information.  TMI.  Don't say I didn't warn you.  I got a little banged up on last Sunday's ride.  So when I rode on Tuesday I layered up with a jock strap, under armor briefs, spandex shorts with ample chamois, heavy biking shorts, and a couple of prophylactic Advil.  That made it bearable.  For this morning's record breaking ride I skipped the Advil and the jock strap. I guess I'm on the mend...

Finally, here's one more D2M music video. It is of day five when we rode most of the Whole Enchilada near Moab. I stowed the camera during a little spritzer that day so missed the LPS section, but got plenty of Hazard County Trails, UPS, and Porcupine Rim. And thanks to G.Love (Philly born and bred) for the sound track.  Enjoy.


"You're a donkey, not a thoroughbred horse.  You may become a fast donkey, but you will never become a thoroughbred"
     -- unknown

Friday, August 12, 2011

New Rabbit

There is nothing that transports you you back to the carefree days of childhood quite like climbing onto a brand new bicycle.  Nothing.  So today was a special day for Mike as he pulled his spanking new ride out of the car for our Happy Hour ride.  And for me once I realized his bike is actually going to make me faster trying to keep up with him.

We took a hard charging ride around the bonus loop, stopping periodically to tighten headsets and shotgun a Labatt's Blue (the new format for our Friday Happy Hour rides).  Without the maintenance stops I'm pretty sure we would have set a new speed record.  And KirkT's all rigid 'cross bike provided a nice contrast to Mike's showroom new Niner.  How he kept that thing on the ground at the speeds we were riding I will never know.

There's a new rabbit in town.


"There is nothing, absolutely nothing, quite so worthwhile as simply messing about on bicycles"
     -- Tom Kunich

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I Don't Remember

Placeholder for picture I would
have really liked to take but
Add this to the list of things you might see while mountain biking but definitely not while sitting at home on the couch...

As we swung into the park for our sunset ride we came upon a photographer and a very well-endowed model hard at work. She was scantily clad and was man-handling a tire iron in front of some sort of sports car I don't remember what kind.

We tried to be discrete as we cruised by.  Funny since she was being anything but... this Christmas if Santa brings you a Pep-Boys pinup calendar featuring a very capable-looking brunette with two middle-age mountain bikers in the background, Jim and I would be glad to autograph it for you.

P.S. Pin-up photo shoot aside we did have a great ride.  Jim's battery may be low but his vision is intact. And the rust is gone after a 2 week layoff.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Goooo Riders!

Oncoming biker
The siren call of mountain bike race in our back yard was too much...

..well it wasn't enough to get me to pin a number on my jersey, but it was enough for me to throw a few cold ones in a back pack, charge my lights, and head out for a midnight bike ride with Rob to check out the scene. And oh what a scene it was.

Jim was marshaling the turn down by the boat ramp. We hung out there long enough to shepard a few dozen riders through the tricky turn. It was quiet, the air was thick with humidity, and approaching bikes were surrounded by a halo of white light. But the novelty soon wore off, so we headed to the start/finish line at the top of the park. It was a behive of activity. Bikers on trainers warming up for the next race (wtf?). The race was being professionally timed, so the start/finish was well lit and festooned with an array of banners and equipment to read the riders' RF tags. Registration booths. An ambulance idling nearby. Riders and spectators wandering about waiting for the next heat.

But we knew the real action would be over at The Eddie Trail. We bushwhacked through a field to the top of the Eddie Trail and then jumped onto the race course clipped in and descending quickly toward the ruins. It wasn't long before we heard the voices and the music. Next it was the Christmas tree lights lining the single track path through the woods. And then we were at the ruins which were illuminated in relief with a powerful halogen light (generator powered). About 30 supporters sitting on the ruins/coolers and cheering us the the top of their lungs. "Riders!!  Goooo riders!!" It was like something out of Alice in Wonderland. We muttered that we were spectators, ditched our bikes next to the ruins, broke out a couple of beers, and joined in the festivities. Every few minutes a couple of racers would come screaming down the Eddie Trail  through the dark, into the light of the party, over a small log drop, and around a small turn, and then back into the darkness. Each encounter lasted less than 5 seconds. Those on their first lap looked quizzical - like they were seeing some sort of mirage. Those who came through on their second or third lap were grinning ear to ear.

I will never cease to be amazed and the fun that can be had with a bicycle.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Nothing To Lose

I'm sure using Locktite on my bottom bracket rates somewhere high on my list of stupid mistakes (not a short list). Let's not dwell needlessly on why I did that, let's just stipulate that I did. And for the last few years I had resigned myself that the usable life of that frame was now inexorably tied to the usable life of that $30 bottom bracket...which was now trashed as result some recent on the trail field repairs.

Out at Last!
So today I decided to give it one more go and try to remove those bearings. Spare nothing. Use a hammer if necessary. After all I had nothing to lose, the frame was destined for the junk heap anyway.  So I flipped the bike over, double checked the reverse threading, attached the Shimano BB tool, and leaned into it with all my weight. The tool bit into the soft aluminum. The aluminum was too soft. But I didn't care so I leaned harder, and eventually the BB came loose. Same routine on the other side.

New BB and derailleur hanger and
we're almost like new. 
Perhaps it was the 103 degree temperature (probably even hotter in the garage). Perhaps it was the bailing wire and two foot steel rod I had attached to the BB tool to give me more mechanical advantage. Perhaps it was because this time I DIDN'T WORRY what damage I might do to the bike or my knuckles.

Having nothing to lose opens many possibilities.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Still Smiling

New Bridge in
I was disappointed with the upgrade to Sebastian's Mudpit.

Oh it's top quality work - a single 20' span, ramped at both ends, and rock solid. But I was fond of the old one. The tippy three section bridge made out of scrap lumber that Mike, Sean, and I installed one rainy Sunday a few years ago. The one that had recently been wrapped in chicken wire because it was getting so slippery.

Tippy Three Section
Bridge made out of
Scrap Lumber
Progress for sure, but the old bridge made me smile every time I crossed it. Sentimental I guess. A pathetic but tangible symbol that I have contributed a tiny bit to our local trails.

So imagine my delight when I rolled up to the mini-mudpit near the upper field and saw the tippy three section bridge made out of scrap lumber (without the chicken wire this time). 

I smiled when I crossed it.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Diggers and Nipples

Bacon and Death Cookies. Diggers and Nipples.These terms and many more are explained in my December 2008 post on mountain biking vernacular. Following are some worthy additions uncovered during our recent D2M adventure:
  • Catcher's mitt - anatomical undercarriage that has been toughened up from extended time in the saddle. It comes at great cost but if properly maintained is a source of great pride and enables the rider to perform superhuman feats of cycling endurance.
  • Short Punchy Climb - the meaning has regional variances. In the Mid-Atlantic region it does not exceed 200 feet ("short") with occasional grades of 15% or more ("punchy"). In the Rocky Mountain states it at least two miles in length ("short") with similar grades. So "short" is a relative term. And on the heels of a 7 mile climb up 10% grade at altitudes approaching 11,000 feet, the "punchy" part feels more like a Jimmy Snooka pile driver.
  • Wattage Cottage - Wattage of course is a commonly used measure of pedaling power output.  The cottage part refers to the gluteous muscles of a well developed (generally female) cyclist capable of producing high wattages.
  • Six miles - Number of miles remaining in an extremely long endurance ride as reported by the ride leader. There is no correlation between this and the actual distance remaining to ride. This number is a universal constant. No matter how many additional miles are ridden, the distance remaining will still be exactly "six miles." It is a tremendous source of comfort to know you can always count on "six miles."
Some time I'll get around to merging into yet another compendium of useful mountain biking terms (like the Internet needs another one of those)...


Monday, July 11, 2011

Scratching That Itch

The Amateur Men
Spectacular french countryside. The view from a low flying helicopter. Two hundred of the best riders in the world giving everything they have for over 100 miles each day. I can almost feel the burn in my legs during those blistering finishes. Yes the Tour is a great 3 weeks, but sitting on the couch watching it on a television leaves me ungratified.

Women's Start
Sunday's Iron Hill Criterium in West Chester on the other hand had all the drama. Being right there on the rail, feeling the breeze as the riders blow by. Jumping back as two riders crash at full speed into the wrought iron fence in front of me. An emotional dispute in the pit. The crowd cheering as a local rider from Shirk's Cycling Team pulls ahead and wins the men's class. I am really not much of a roadie, but I have to say the criterium is a awesome way to see a bike race as a spectator.

But alas, I was still a spectator. I still have the itch. Must get out and ride in the dirt today. That is the only real way to scratch the itch.

"Put some fun between your legs"
     -- unknown

Sunday, July 10, 2011

It's in the can

The first video is "in the can" as they say. I guess I should thank The Edge for his contribution, but frankly the seven other guys who were pushing the pedals up to 11,425 feet deserve most of the credit. Here's to you guys!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Patton's Bridge

The bridge at bottom of the Sole Trail got a capital upgrade and a name ("Patton's Bridge"). The sign - not visible in this picture - is wedged between those two trees. Nice upgrade, the drop onto the old section was going to mess me up eventually.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

All Meatloaf All The Time

The D2M gang gets loosened up on Porcupine Singletrack
My father told me to always save the best for last. For example choking down the lima beans before savoring the meatloaf.

But as I begin to wrap up D2M with this post (the best one of all) I realize that there really were no lima beans with D2M. It was all meatloaf. With gravy. And the reason it was all meatloaf was because of the cast of characters that took this journey (leap of faith really) with me.

They brought a sense of adventure. They brought the Taj and Groover bingo. They brought the mutiny, Sheep Dip scotch, and a lot of laughs. They brought "Claus Van Traup" and "Glenn Armstrong." And the cracked helmet, and a naked girl to follow to Moab. They brought the magic, and I will never forget that.

All meatloaf all the time.

"It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." 
     --Dr. Seuss

Monday, July 4, 2011

McGiver McFee

I was skirting the edge of the uranium mine Superfund site when I heard (and felt) an explosion.

A bang actually, but it was loud enough to startle the other riders. Flat. A nasty one, this was a 6" tear along the tire bead. Now I've done my share of field repairs - flats, broken chains, busted derailleur hangers - but this one looked a game ender (at least until we could find the van). 

Matt promptly emptied his backpack and got busy. About 15 minutes with a tube of superglue, duct tape, and some plastic scraps from a spiral ring notebook did the trick. We aired it up and it held.  Matt said he was confident it would hold but suggested I ride "carefully." Which I did...for about 20 minutes but then we hit some awesome singltrack and rock gardens that left little choice but to ride full on. Which I also did. And the tire held.

So add duct tape, superglue, and some plastic scraps to the seatbag inventory. And some ingenuity.

"Is that a spanner in your packet, or are you just happy to see me?"
     -- unknown

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Bite Me

I left my sweat soaked CamelBak outside my tent on night three. Apparently some nocturnal critter was looking for a salty snack, and took a few hunks out of my hydration bite valve. Yes that's the part of the hydration system that goes in your mouth. There were no bike shops within 100 miles, so I got to finish the trip with this my mouth.

"Keep riding, Nancy. It's just water and dirt."
     -- Huck And Roll

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Luminous Beauty?

Conserving energy during lunch break on day two.
Some of those long painful climbs were actually the most beautiful moments of the trip. Even in the granny gear they required every ounce of strength I had for every pedal turn. These climbs were endless - half an hour, an hour, or more even longer before I could coast for just a few seconds.

I remember the sights, smells, sounds, and emotions of many of those climbs like they were yesterday. Day one climbing Bolam Pass with the two Mikes, day two riding KillPacker flats with Kirk and Jim, and day four riding up toward Geyser Pass with Sebastian and Dave. During these long climbs, small groups of 2-3 riders seemed to cling together for moral support (it certainly wasn't drafting at 3 mph).

There were few words exchanged. The laughter and light-hearted banter had died long ago. All energy was devoted to turning the pedals, grinding away thousands of feet of altitude one crank turn at a time. Each crank turn an effort. All I heard was the labored breathing of the riders right next to me. Occasionally one of us might get in an extra crank turn and inch slightly ahead. The group would respond, drawing their energy from the lead rider. Or we might sense one rider was fading and the group would ease up slightly allowing the struggling rider to recover. This dance would naturally switch off as individual energy levels ebbed and flowed. Long periods of concentrated silence, each rider tuned in to those around him.

And so it went for mile after mile. All the while surrounded by mind-boggling scenery, brilliant sunshine, and fresh smells of Colorado high country.

It may seem odd to hear this suffering described as a beautiful experience. But it was beautiful, I think for three reasons. First we were each on a personal journey discovering abilities we never knew we had (physical, mental, and emotional). But it was the camaraderie of the shared experience took it to a whole new level. For me it was almost euphoric.

"Suffering has a luminous beauty, and cleanses the mind in much the same way a wildfire clears an overgrown forest."
     -- Mike Ferrentino

Friday, July 1, 2011

What Works

My Junk
Five days in the mountains. Bikes, equipment, packing, what to bring, what not to bring, what works what doesn't?

Fixing lunch for the road
I packed pretty well. Used 90% of what I brought, and didn't miss much. Big wins:
  • Synthetic underwear - can't believe it took me this long. Always fresh and breezy, almost like going comando except with some help for the boys. A+++++
  • Arm warmers - as Glenn said "modular clothing is awesome." He's right.
  • My own bike seat - this where "the rubber meets the road" so to speak. Best to do it with a familiar friend.
  • Chamois Butt'r - awkward the first few times you use it but an ounce of prevention...
  • Baby wipes - five days in the bush, I'm just sayin'
  • Journal - just a few minutes each evening around the campfire, priceless
Friends, campfire,
and a bottle of scotch
made for a memorable
night four.
Of questionable utility:
  • Leg warmers - didn't use, maybe it was Dave's "Flash Dance" comment
  • Winter gear - didn't use, but would have been nice if weather hadn't cooperated
  • Beer and liquor - we went way overboard (8 cases beer, bottles of burbon, scotch, rum, vodka). For an event this physically demanding you just don't have the time or inclination to drink 5 beers a night. However scotch is a different story...
I've got my list, checked it twice, ready for another go....

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Company You Keep...

One goal for this trip was contact.  Contact with with our environment, with each other, and with our guides. That's why we avoided some interesting hotel based trips. The restaurants, bars, TVs, and cell phones would be an unwelcome distraction. This trip required FULL IMMERSION. meals around a campfire, showers under a tree. A sleeping bag and a tent.

The Hermosa trip format and in particular the guides ensured we got the full contact experience without having to compromise. Camp was setup and the fire lit when we arrived at camp each evening. Expert preparation and fresh ingredients meant our meals were first rate.  And helpings were healthy, we never went hungry.

But the guides were really the secret sauce.

Matt McFee is the mastermind of the operation and has assembled a winning format and a great team of guides. His navigational skills and lunchtime stories of the Continental Divide Race were eclipsed only by his performance in the Angelina Jolie game and his expert chamois cleaning tips.

We only had a few minutes with Peter Basinger as he shuttled us to the start on day one, but he had some great stories of racing in the Iditarodtrail invitational, a 24hr mountain bike race in Alaska where he found a racer who had been mauled by a grizzly (she survived), and the trip to NYC to be interviewed by one of the morning talk shows about the bear incident.

Apple Cobbler, yum!
Lisa Lieb ("Angie")added a high energy feminine touch to the adventure without upsetting the dynamics of eight guys on a "guys trip." At first I was dubious about the mixed gender dynamic, but she mixed it up expertly. She ran a fantastic kitchen, tended to some gnarly injuries, and put some guys in their place when they needed it. She walked the line expertly. Oh and she is a kick ass rider.

Glenn Shoemaker ("Glenn.P.R") was our cowboy poet. He was knowledgeable about everything from the lifecycle of the desert gnat and herbal remedies to chiropracty and fine whiskeys. He was a wealth of excellent advice, never preachy, gently offered in prosaic fashion. We learned to listen attentively when he offered wise advice about "building monuments" and being careful about places where "someone might get your stuff." And he was ALWAYS there if someone was suffering and falling off the back of the group, distracting them and keeping them positive.

And finally, Delila the black and tan coonhound and Arthur the newfoundland were a great touch. Originally they did not plan to be on the trip but we insisted that they join us because we think dogs are awesome.

"That bike chick sort of digs you but is not looking for a beginner"
      -- unknown

"RIDE HARD, live easy"
     -- unknown

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Size Doesn't Matter... least it didn't tonight.

I took the Turner Burner out for tonight's ride. First time since Colorado. This is a legendary XC bike but the 3.6" of travel didn't seem like much as I bounced on the bike in the driveway. Not after riding that big 5" RumbleFish  in Colorado. But it was just the ticket on the twisty buffed-out singletrack of MCSP.

Might be a different story at French Creek or Wissahickon...

...but tonight three point six inches was plenty.

"If the world were a logical place, men would ride side saddle."
     -- Rita Mae Brown


Our Groover had a view and a two drop maximum.

The view was of the snow-capped La Sal mountain range in the distance. Unobstructed by houses, trees, or even window glass. It was straight up. A big money view.

The two drop maximum meant you had a 50% chance of having to empty The Groover. Very high stakes. Add eight competitive guys, and you've got yourself a sideshow of epic proportions.  Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer type of stuff. "Who just went?" "Did he really go?" "Where is 'so-and-so'?" Head fakes. Guys sneaking to the Groover at four in the morning.

In the end I was 0 for 2.  I would have liked another go at it to improve my percentage, but on the last day we raised the maximum from two drops to three. In my mind the price of failure was too high, so I held out for modern facilities on night #4.

But (a small) part of me still misses that Groover and that money view.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Know Thy Route

Trip data from Andy's GPS unit (includes a map track) is available online. For guys who were on the trip, if you zoom in on the map track I swear you will remember every rock and switchback as if it were yesterday.

Total elevation gain for the trip was 17,732ft and total loss was 22,642ft. Don't interpret this to mean it was a downhill ride. We did a LOT of climbing on every day except #5 (see elevation graphic). It takes many hours of hard work to climb a few thousand feet, but only a few minutes of high speed descent to burn it all up. So even though we netted -4,910 ft of elevation this trip was totally dominated by climbing.

I believe the dip around mile 65 was lunch on day #3, the steep climb out is the beginning of the infamous afternoon "shit show" grind-fest. I'm still studying topo maps to determine how steep was the climb-out for that afternoon sojourn.

Elevation over mileage
The 38.5mph max speed is from day#2 descent to the reservoir. If you've ever gone over 35 on a bike then you know 38.5mph is wicked fast. It can leave a pretty good rug burn if anything goes wrong. It focuses the mind in a hurry.

Some possible gaps in the data due to a battery issue on day #3.


"Know then thy route, presume not signs to scan; The proper study of mankind is maps."
     -- Albert Augustus Pope

Monday, June 27, 2011

Little Dots and Spots

These spots itch like crazy
That's the back of my heel/calf area. It itches like a SOB. Just about everyone who went on the D2M trip has them. And today I found out what they are.


Damn chiggers.

They are some sort of minuscule larvae that attach to you and liquefy your flesh so they can drink it. I thought my dog was disgusting when she ate horse manure. That's nothing compared to chiggers.

Damn chiggers.

"All I see is little dots, some are smeared and some are spots."
--David Byrne

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sleeping With Your Junk

My feet in the
White Clay parking lot
without cycling shoes
I slept with my junk all week in Colorado. Every time I woke up, it was right there. So I'd pack my tent and sleeping bag, put on my junk, climb on the bike, and ride. Day after day.


Except today at 6:00am when I had to load my junk in a car and drive an hour to White Clay...only to find I forgot some important junk. Like, my cycling shoes.

It was so pathetic even Mike and Andy didn't have the heart to abuse me.

So instead of riding the sweet flowy singletrack of White Clay I ran errands at Walmart and Home Depot.

"Go Big or Go Home"
     -- unknown

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Big Five Inch

Took the Rig for my first ride since Moab. Just to loosen up.

The big five inch...

  • Too many hikers. I don't think we saw anyone on the trails the first four days of riding in Colorado and Utah. I like that.
  • Really good air. There is 4x the oxygen (per volume) here than at the top of Bolam Pass. We were not acclimatized for Bolam Pass. Big difference.
  • Didn't miss the gears really, but did reach for the shifter out of habit.
  • Pucker factor. Didn't register at MCSP. 
  • No rear suspension was weird. Not much front either since I filled the Reba with too much oil. I got used to the RumbleFish with 5" of plush travel front and back. Not that I needed it today, but I missed it. I started hopping up and down on the Rig and nothing much happened. 

I really do miss that big five inch.

"29 and single"
     -- saw it on a t-shirt once

You Will Not Regret It If You Live

This was an adventure with all the commensurate risks and rewards. Mountainous terrain and excessive speed contributed to both crashes. With downhills measured in miles instead of yards and altitude drops measured in thousands of feet instead of hundreds, it is no surprise we were riding at excessive speeds for long periods of time. Speeds unheard of on our east coast trails.

Nurse Kitty cleaning up Sebastian.
He'll have some good bacon from
that one!
Sebastian's crash occurred after a particularly gnarly section of downhill where the trail smoothed out. From behind, it looked like his front wheel had hit a large rock - the bike stopped and he flew a good ten yards down the trail, sustaining a couple of nasty scrapes but thankfully no structural damage.  Luckily he was thrown forward and not sideways where there was no trail, only air (you get the picture). Oddly we could not find any obstructions on the trail - final analysis concluded that the rear wheel was off the ground approaching turn when both brakes were applied, resulting in instantaneous endo. Possible contributing factor was that brakes on Sebastian's own bike at home were soft (needed to be bled).
Conclusions: On descents keep weight back and use front brake judiciously. Switching from soft to firm brakes may contribute to misjudging stopping power.
Nurse Kitty checking
Dave before granting
him access to the cooler
Dave's birthday crash had speed and some additional complicating factors. It was at the end of a very very long day, and we were nearing camp and a cooler full of beer.  We were about 3 miles into an 8 mile descent.  It was a similar stretch of trail, very fast, flat, and smooth when Dave just inexplicably disappeared in a tangle of bike, legs, and dust.
Tangent: It was strange seeing the crash from about 100 yards back. The violence of the crash was apparent. Legs and bike tumbling down the trail. Arms flopping. Dust flying. I've been there, I know. But from where I was sitting it was utterly silent. No noise, no pain. A strangely detached and frankly disturbing perspective.
I was first on the scene and as is customary asked him if he was ok. He said "no." David never says "no." A quick assessment turned up a cracked helmet and a left shoulder that hung considerably lower than his right...because his arm had been wrenched out of the shoulder socket. Nurse Kitty promptly got busy assessing the patient and trying to work the arm back into place. In the end, Dave was able to work it back in and elected to ride the remainder of the descent (albeit a little slower). That my friends is one tough customer.
Conclusions: On descents keep weight back and use front brake judiciously. Increase the margin for error (slow down) if you are on the back end of a grueling ride.
Jim after tangling with
a barb-wire fence and
"cleaning" the wound.
Jim's mishap was not so much a crash as it was a miscalculation.  Treat barb-wire with utmost respect. Get your tetanus shot. And please please do not fill your mouth with water and spit on your open wound in a vain attempt to "clean" the injury. Your mouth is one of the most bacteria infested parts of your body. You are actually better off urinating on it than spitting on it (urine is sterile). You get the picture.

These incidents and numerous other minor bumps and scrapes confirmed that indeed this was an adventure not a video game, that that the human body is glorious and capable of many amazing things, and most importantly it may be the mind that is the real wildcard in all this.  Who would have thought?

"All problems in mountain biking can be solved by going faster, except the ones that are caused by going too fast."
     -- unknown

"Get a bicycle.  You will not regret it if you live." 
     – Mark Twain

“Pain is temporary, glory is forever”
      -- unknown