Monday, December 20, 2010

Another Great TWAFHGG In the Books

It was cold, but not too cold (mid 20's), the gravel roads were clear of snow (but not of ice!), the crew was eager (to get back and eat), and most of us (well maybe only me) had enough extra "padding" to ensure that we were going to stay warm for the duration.

Folks started showing up at around 9ish, well not really considering CW lives 40 feet away, so I guess he was there much earlier as I'm sure he slept in his own bed, but he was over the property line and in my yard around 9am looking to air up his bike. He knew where the pump was so off he went, only to return a short time later holding the torn off schrader valve in his hand.

Now if felt like a TWAF ride, as we had busted gear for me to fix! Of course I quickly realized I didn't have any schrader valve tubes and his bike is 8speed so I didn't have a wheel that would work. Instead we opted to just put him on another bike, this is exactly why having a quiver is so important!

Jon showed up a few minutes later and gets the award for the longest drive, making the trip from Waterbury, VT. We then had a few riders bail, Mike the Weeble took a fall on ice the night before that had him questioning his recently rebuilt shoulder (so he gets a pass) and Bishop bailed because, well we really don't know why but he did. However the crew had a final count of six, and the number six represented the final count of riders. No more than six, but certainly one more than five.....

The count was: Jon Conti, Alan Ashenfelter, Frank Ostrow, Chris Webb, Grady Vigneau, and myself. By about 9:50am we headed out and within 5 seconds a few people were cold. For those who haven't ridden a bike in cold temps the issue of windchill becomes apparent very quickly. Unlike Nordic skiing where you're upper body is actually doing some work, on a bike your upper body gets cold easily without making sure you've got ample wind protection. This is especially true with your hands and ears. The other spot that has a tough go- feet. Especially when you factor in you have shoes that have a metal plate, attached to a metal cleat, which attaches to a metal pedal. Let's just say someone should invent a "heated pedal" where the metal to metal isn't so cold- it would make for much more comfortable winter riding!

Our first crash of the day came about four miles in on a climb that had some ice hidden in the perfect spot. A few of us made it over barely, and then GV put a bit too much power to the rear wheel and slid out in fantastic fashion. It wouldn't be his only fall, and certainly not the only one to fall on the ride.

Up next to hit the deck was yours truly, again ice was the culprit as I took a quick trip to the ground and despite the pain my right knee was feeling, I was just glad the ice didn't give way under my heft as laying in water at that point would have really put a damper on the ride.

We soon made it out to Monk Road and everyone got their sweat going pretty good on the long grind up to the top where it meets Ben Hale. Of course, then you descend for about a mile on pavement so all that heat is quickly lost, and soon we had a few folks who were on the chilly side.

Up next was the climb to the top of Hawk Mountain. We made it about 3/4 of the way up before we ran into a serious ice flow that had us bush whacking to get up the mountain. Once in awhile we'd try to get back on the trail itself but it was pretty slick, AA took a nice slide that looked sort of fun it it weren't for the rocks that were poking through the ice that looked to do some damage if you hit them wrong. Needless to say Alan found a safe spot to get back OFF the trail and continued his climb. This flow was about 300 meters or so long and once we got past it we were able to remount the bikes and finish up the route to the summit. Once we got there everyone was pleased we had put in the effort as the views were excellent. We scrambled around on the rock for a bit, took some shots, and then suited back up for the final push home.

We opted for a secondary route down as we really didn't feel like dealing with the ice flow again. We took a route that JJ and I had scouted about a month ago, I was nervous as it was very wet then, but it wasn't that bad this time around. A snowmobile club had obviously been doing some trail work as there were a lot of branches and saplings that had been cut laying in the trail, which also meant a lot of little pungi sticks on the side of the trail. We took it easy on the way down, but we still saw CW go over the bars as well as GV hit the deck a couple of times. Let's just say the ground wasn't giving much, but fortunately neither of them were any worse off after their gravity check.

I had assumed that to be the last tough piece of riding, as the rest of the route was on gravel road or pavement, however the final stretch of gravel proved to be the diciest from my point of view as there were deep, frozen ruts that were having a good time trying to throw us from our bikes. While everyone stayed upright there were some pretty big sighs of relief when we got down to the pavement. From this spot we could look back up and see where we had just been up on Hawk Mountain, and while not a huge climb the way the elevation displays in front of you in the form of a cliff face it certainly looks impressive.

From here it was a paved cruise back to food and beer. The sole town line was snagged by the only one who knew where it was (me) and the final climb up Chadbourne Hill was a slow one as we worked our way up through campus trying to flatten the hill as best we could. In the end we had spent just over 2.5 hours out on the bikes, got over 1800 feet of climbing and logged a respectable 17 miles. The post ride feed of chili (thanks Jon), wings, beer and other good stuff certainly tasted good and felt well deserved.

Now winter can begin in earnest!

Ride on.


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