Sunday, November 01, 2009

Sunday Epic

I had big plans of riding Sunday with DEA over near his place in Maine. Unfortunately that didn't work out due to his work schedule. Luckily for me Chris was looking to do a ride this weekend so we made plans to ride from his house on Birch Hill. We each sent out invites to a bunch of folks, but as we got ready to roll out this morning, only Eric joined our trek. I had checked all my gear the night before and made sure I had my Garmin GPS packed as we planned to ride some stuff I have never been on before. I had my bike all ready and put the GPS into the mount on the bars and turned it on. It chirped and gave me a message, "Battery Low" was being shown on the screen. I said some choice words and took it off my bike and tossed it into my car. Its amazing how tech reliant I have become over the past 3 years riding with the GPS. I am always looking at it for distance traveled, elevation gained, speed and heart rate data. Without it I feel quite lost (not that I ever use it for directions), but it isn't always a bad thing.

Chris has a trail right from his front door that connects him to the Cedar Creek trail network. It was really windy last night and as a result most of the leaves that were on the trees were now on the ground. There were sections where it was actually hard to follow the trail. After a little over a mile into the ride Chris came upon a large pine that had blown down across the trail and tried to ride around it through a bunch of smaller downed branches. He made it almost the entire way around it and then he went down in one of those slow motion crashes that seem to happen and there's nothing you can do to stop it. He hit the ground pretty good and wacked a tree or branch or something like that as he impacted the ground. It left a pretty nasty mark on his lower leg just above his ankle. Luckily the damage all appeared to be internal. Either way it hurt a bunch. He walked it aff for a couple minutes and then we got going again.

After a good couple of loops in Cedar Creek we started the long climb up one of the National Forest fire roads to High Street which is not much more of a road than the WMNF fire road. This climb is a few miles of continuous gravel grind. Once you hit the gate at the end of the fire road and turn right onto High Street you have another mile plus of climbing up the end of the road and the beginning of the trail head to the Mineral Site Trail.

The trail had sections where it was deep with leaves and other areas where it was mostly pines and there were very few leaves on the ground which was a nice change. We had almost reached the trail known as Sherwood Forest when Chris caught a slick root beneath the leaves funny and went down. This time it seemed pretty clean and he had no further injuries from the crash. We got moving and started the fast entrance to Sherwood Forest. All three of us were flying along pretty well and then all of the sudden the trail was covered in a very deep blanket of leaves. The leaves made steering your bike much like steering a boat. Control was somewhat lacking. This trail is all downhill and has some really fun sections.

Eric and Chris, both better downhillers than I, which I attribute to my numerous ER visits, pulled ahead of me a bit. I then came into a switchback section and there was Chris, stopped in the middle of the trail. As I rolled up he flipped his bike over and showed my his rear wheel, it was flat, not low but completely flat. Eric was ahead of us and didn't hear us yell that we were stopped to change the flat tire. Once the tube was out we could see the slice in the tube that looked like it might have happened when he caught the root minutes before.

Chris pulled out his spare tube and pulled the wheel off and started to change the tube out. He started to re-inflate the tube once it was swapped and it just didn't seem to want to hold any air. He pulled the tube out of the tire and we examined it and found that alos had a hole in it. What we didn't know was if it had a hole in it before Chris put it into the tire or if it got the hole during the installation, either way it wouldn't hold air. Neither of us had a patch kit either.

Eric now came riding up as he realized that we were delayed due to something. We now had a problem, we had no more 26" tubes. Eric runs a 29er as do I and he runs a tubeless setup. I had a spare 29er tube and I pulled it out and tossed it to Chris as I figured it was better than walking. Unfortunately once Chris had it in place and started to inflate it he had the same issue with it as he did with his tube. We were now thinking he was going to be walking back home. Luckily for us two other riders came up the trail and were a great help and gave us a tube to use. This one held air. Yahoo. Unfortunate thing was that now we had no spare between the three of us.

Once we finished Sherwood Forest we had another fire road climb. A little less than a mile but by this point we were all feeling our legs a bit. The next trail section I think is called the Carol Reed Trail. It has a nice water crossing over a 2x10 that was a little sketchy. We all just went for it and made it without issue. I had not ridden this trail before so this was nice to ride. It was a twisty rocky rooty trail that had a gradual climb in elevation. We came to a junction of the Stoney Ridge Trail. We went to the left onto the Upper Stoney Ridge Trail This trail was nasty. It goes up and up and just when you think you are done, it turns and goes up some more.

I was very glad that Chris had said I would want a bike with gears today instead of my singlespeed. I was in full on granny gear mode and happy to have it. After a good bit of pretty slow climbing and a little hike-a-bike we came to some slick-rock.

This section I was told is known as the Whitehorse Ledge Trail. The slickrock was pretty cool and very steep. We climbed across it and then dipped back into the woods. I though we had seen what we were going to see. The climbing unfortunately was not over and we worked our way towards the southern end of Whitehorse Ledge.

I was riding the trail and it looked like it just went into the blue. As I approached the clearing Chris yelled out to make sure to turn and its a long way down if you go straight. I was going nice and slow and made my left turn to follow the top edge of the ledge.

This is what Whitehorse Ledge Looks like in a few weeks with a dusting of snow.

As you can see in the above shot there is some significant exposure up on top. It is pretty cool being up there. Here's a few Shots from the top with a view back to the East and North with Echo Lake below, and North Conway to the East.

Riding slickrock is not all that common around our area as it seems it is much more common in places like Moab. It was a lot of fun to ride across, something new for me for sure. I had a 3 hour time window when we left Chris' house and it was about 11AM when we hit the top of Whitehorse Ledge. We decided it was time for us to start back so I could make my 12PM appointment. No more than a half a mile into the ride, while on the Stoney Ridge Lollypop trail section it was my turn for some bad luck. I was descending with Chris behind me and I was off my saddle and was just beginning to get seated again and as my weight hit the seat it gave way.

I have been on a few rides where this has happened to other folks, DEA and NK for a couple, but it has never happened to me before today. One difference for me than what happened to DEA and NK was that I didn't break the seat post bolt that holds the saddle onto the top of the seatpost. I stopped and got off my bike and looked down. My saddle was sort of sitting on top of my rear tire askew. I picked it up and saw that it had broken clean off at the top of the carbon fiber seatpost.

The aluminum insert into the post that attaches to the saddle had snapped. We were still quite a few miles from Chris' house and I was looking at my watch knowing I had about 40 minutes to make it to his house and then to pick up my kid from lacrosse practice at noon.

I put the seatpost into my pack and bunjied the saddle to the back of my pack. I tried to ride as well as I could but you never realize how much you use the saddle of a bike when you ride, even when standing. Without it I was really struggling on the rocky rooty trails. The trail came to a clearing and I decided that if I was to head into the clearing I would be able to find pavement and then ride roads back to Chris' house. I left Chris and Eric and made my way towards the roads.

I got into my big ring so that I could peddle and have enough resistance to keep moving. After about 20 minutes of riding this way I was completely spent. I made the turn onto Birch Hill Road to Chris' place. It is all up hill to his house and I was suffering. I looked at my watch and saw that I had 15 minutes left. I figured I could walk the last steep section of the road and have about 8 minutes to make it.

As I walked I decided I should call my wife and tell her I was probably going to be a few minutes late due to all of our issues of the day. As I grabbed my phone I saw I had a text message which told me that I didn't have to pick up my kid. It was a huge relief. I walked the last couple hundred yards to the top and then got onto the peddles and coasted into Chris' driveway. As I rolled in I could see that Chris and Eric had beaten me back.

It was a long and very tough ride that was filled with a few unfortunate and unexpected things, but overall it was a lot of fun. Chris had his GPS and it said we had done about 15 miles and over 2,330 feet of climbing.

Now that its been a few hours since the ride, I am wicked tired, a good night for the hot tub me thinks.


1 comment:

weak and feeble said...

Bummed I missed that! I snuck out on the cross bike and flatted about 5 miles from home, ran two of them before K picked me up- fun times. Bummer about the post, glad you didn't "luther" yourself.