In Maine’s Sunday Telegram.
I don’t buy much of nothing, but would spend $$ on this. You hear me Google analytics? Seriously glossy, although the price continues to present as unreasonable. Shows what a man with a a fatbike, a computer, or possibly only a smartphone phone can put together these days.
Fatbiker “magazine” <—Check it out!
I’m no barfly. I can count on one hand the times when I’ve walked into a bar, alone, and schmoozed along in there.
Fact Check #1- Actual years have gone by between my extremely occasional bar visits.
However, I went into Rockland tonight to hang with the “Bubba Council” at Rock Harbor. It was quite an honor to be invited into that inner sanctum. I walked in and there they were, with 7 hands extended to join mine, holding down the whole corner of the bar at the local pub. There was power in the room. Once a week. Now.
The Bubbas are a notoriously informal group of mountain bikers who have managed to not only ride together for 18 years, but to do it in full blown ragged royalty, with a four-season regularity that has been immensely appealing to me since that fateful day almost twenty years ago when Smiling Dave suggested that I should head over to the Snow Bowl on Thursday night at 5:30 and ride with these guys. The deal we have here doesn’t go down very often, and I’m holding onto it for dear life.
What I saw on that first ride with these guys floored me. I watched bikes fly. Actually lift up and fly. Fly over horrible, rock-strewn threads of a trail, paths that climbed at impossibly steep grades to twist around trees and then cascade over streams and fallen logs where a mistake meant bruises and often blood. For a couple of years, I actually believed that my rides at Ragged meant blood, mine, somewhere. I’m able to ride like them now, almost.
So tonight, I hoisted a couple of beers and savored the deep flavor of community with my brethren riders. We have experienced each others’ bleeding, bruised, and broken forms, as we wince, laugh and grouse our way through the deep forests, bogs, and fields of Midcoast Maine. As Stevie said tonight, over fresh deep-fried potato chips and drafts, “Everyone is going to crash sooner or later.” Even Stevie took a big hit this fall, and he’s a pro in a Hawk suit.
There are walking trails that we ride on like the George’s Highland Path, where I’ve never seen another person other than a Bubba, even though I’ve been riding these trails dozens of times. The enthusiasm of a riding a half to a dozen single-track miles together has us talking about where we’re riding the next time before we are even done with this one. It’s been a thrilling, and sometimes painful ride. Sometimes it’s at night, maybe on a Sunday morning, but- Joy also shows up for the ride.
We talked tonight about why we do this. Why have we have been at it for 18 years, each spending many thousands of dollars on upgrading the bikes to allow us to ride longer, faster, and climb easier ? Why did we find 16 riders who pulled together this November in the Bog? It’s crazy? I’ve even spent more on my new 29” Santa Cruz that I had on my last car. Crazy!
We do this because we care for each other, show interest in each other, pick up each other when we’ve crashed, make fun of each other, and appreciate the company of other men as we live in the woods for a couple to three hours, a few times each week, under rain, sun, darkness, snow, and whatever else this glorious world outside out windows promise us.
Fact Check #2- I laugh a lot, smile when I’m not laughing, and always feel alive when I ride with the Bubbas.
There were so many Bubbas and guests on their bikes in the frozen Bog this morning that I lost count. Jason thinks there were 16. There were so many of us that the group broke apart right at the start, with most of us backtracking the Bog Road for the climb up Benner Hill into the trails that led off the powerline on top.I do know it was a Bog record, even bypassing the numbers from the three warmer seasons this year.
Why? Surely it was not the conditions. It was 11 degrees out, and in the open sections like the power line, there was wind as well, driving the wind-chilled temps into the single numbers.
How long was the ride today? Depends on who you were with. Nelson and I were toast after just 5.7 miles, but Jon Anders put up 7.1, Eric checked in with 10.5, and the Hawk trumped all comers with 12.1. These were not summertime miles. They were mostly hard earned.
What were the riding conditions? There were places where the packed and refrozen snow settled down over rock gardens and evened them out, making travel zipper than usual. However, some things were more difficult, like finding the trail. John and I found ourselves off-trail descending the first section from the power line to the wooden bridge over Branch Brook. Without a defined trail, the deep double-rutted ATV tracks led the way, but sometimes it was the wrong. The absolute best assistance winter bikers can get on their favorite trails is from snowmobiles, who pack the trail evenly, and if that surface is refrozen, it’s generally easy to stay on top and not break through no matter what type of tires you have on your bike. ATV’s left a narrow berm between the two icy tire tracks that were just deep enough to catch my pedals when I tried to ride in the slots. When I was in the berm between, refrozen footprints and deer tracks lumped things up and sometimes threw me back into the ruts.
There were 7 riders on fat-tire bikes out there today. He’s a pic of my group:
There were a few sections of trail that were sheer ice, and the guys who were riding studded tires were able to go straight over them. Fat tire bikes had an option here, which was to pull off the trail, head right into the woods along those sections, and pick your way around trees to rejoin the trail after the ice receded. I did this successfully a number of times.
Climbing out of Branch Brook, there was the biggest blow-down we’ve seen yet this year on this ride.
And finally, here’s the real deal- footage of today’s ride posted by John Anders mixed in with a ride that John and Tim Sewall took on the Warren trails the day before.
Finally able to ride my Pugsley at a decent clip over the snow. We’re on the front wave of the coldest January temperatures since 2009 that are creeping here from Canada. It’s going to head down below zero for the next three days, with an accompanying windchill. We’ll stay warm here, with wood/coal stoves in the kitchen and living room, fueled by bone-dry hardwood and the secret weapon- a few hundred pounds of coal that I’ve stashed away for nights just like these.
The snow under the Nate tires is still crunchy, but the effort to move through it is minimal. I am tired of cold feet on my winter rides. My clipped Lake winter riding boots aren’t cutting it. Craig Nelson loaned me his socketed 6 mm allen tip that allowed me remove my Time pedals, and replace them with a set of plastic platform pedals that I bought for $12 a pair at Bath Cycle. I rode with this setup yesterday, which enabled me to wear my over sized and unlined New Balance hiking boots. The extra room in the toe box lets me wiggle my forefoot around, and allows for the small chemical heat packets to be thrown in there as well. I was definitely warmer with this pedal setup.
Super fun bike run yesterday afternoon, riding from the house up on High Street a few hundred yards where I turned down the abandoned end of the Proctor Road and then I linked up with the snowmobile trail that wound its way around Moody Pond reaching Moody Mountain Road. When I got to the end of the Martin Corner Road, I took a picture of my bike on the road back.You can see this is a driveway that turns right, but I’m headed over the snow berm straight ahead that runs a mile or so back to the trails. I heard some voices on the road, and lo and behold, there appeared Casy and Chad, on their own fat-tire Pugsleys. They were running a snowmobile trail out toward the Hope general store, and joined me for the ride back, where they continued up the other end of the Proctor Road, branching off to the snowmobile trail that led them back to their cars at the Lincolnville School lot.
I got onto new territory with the Pugs at the end, continuing on the trail, where I followed tractor tire depressions on the snow where I climbed through my next door neighbor’s fields, coming out back on High Street, adjacent to the Cross cemetery , and back to a warm house. Traffic report:cars seen on this ride = 0, Pugsleys 2.
Rockin’ time riding the Pugsley for double digit ( barely) miles near Warren village. Four of us were on fat-tire bikes, with four other Bubbas bicycling on regular-width tires.
It was 24 degrees out, with an inch of new powder settling on the snowmobile-packed trail.
After my disappointing experience around Moody Pond yesterday, I hoped for a firmer riding surface.
We had Casey join us today on his shiny yellow Pugsley. He and Jason were the forward force on the ride away from the Warren school.
Here’s Youtube clip of this ride that John Anders put together and submitted. He’s doing a great job with the Contour camera and the editing.
The ride was definitely better today, on a heavily traveled snowmobile track that worked it’s way along the powerline and over fields onto a new section of trail that initially ran through the forest. While we were all moving forward, the lack of a frozen track resulted in places where the bikes broke through and the rear wheels just kept spinning. Uphills were hard. Some of us let air out of our tires, trying to gain a wider footprint in order to increase traction, a technique that I have sucessfully employed while riding motorcycles on long gravel roads in Canada. Several of us were running p.s.i.’s under 10. Both Jason and I had less than half that in our 4” tires. Here’s a picture of Jason’s fist illustrating:
Sinking was enough a problem that several riders labored back after an hour, at the 2.6 mile mark. I joined Casey, Jason, The Hawk, and Craig Mac for an additional loop that added another 45 minutes to our ride. The terrain was varied. We even passed through a gravel pit.
I was unable to negotiate a steep downhill curve at speed and even though I was nearly upright as I staggered to regain my balance, as soon as I stepped off the trail onto the deep snow beside the pack I face planted into the soft snow.
With 40 degree temps predicted for Wednesday followed by two freezing nights, the winter riding is only going to get better.
Here’s the map.
Riding in real cold, real dark, real steep, really difficult traction conditions in the Camden Hills State Park, overlooking Penobscot Bay under the last quarter moon. I don’t think it reached 15 out on the seven-plus miles tonight.
Five Bubbas made it out with the help of the lights: four guys on fat bikes ( Ian, Jason, John, me) and Craig Mac on his Tallboy outfitted with a brand new pair of Ice Spiker Pro 29″ 2.25 Studded Tires.
Here’s John’s brief clip of tonight’s actual ride at the start, which has some other local footage on it. I admit it casts a bleak aspect on the wonders of the outdoors, but heck, it’s night time and the lights we use aren’t flamethrower candlepower! As Craig so aptly quipped tonight, “At least we’re off the couch.”
We left from the Route 1 Parking lot. The ride was most difficult right at the start, with an immediate climb of 400 feet in the first half- mile. Ian and Jason took right off and Mac and I rode together.
The track tonight is not frozen in at all, despite five days of cold clear weather since the last snowfall. It’s a wide packed smooth snowmobile-graded skiing trail, wide enough to let the ski skaters fly along through the Park. Every once in a while, the 250 pound combined weight of me and the Pugsley broke through the top layer and started spinning a bit until the lugs on my Nate tires caught and on I’d move ahead. Craig Mac stopped a couple of times to dump air out of his tires. You need as much surface on the pack as possible in order to keep from sinking while you pedal.
On the way up, John Anders came at us on his Pugsley from the Lincolnville end of the road, a mile and a half downhill from here.
We caught Ian and Jason. Ian encouraged me to dump most of the air out of my 4” tires. I thought they were soft enough, as I had pumped them up to 9 pounds two weeks ago. He told me they were still too firm. A mere four pounds inside the tire didn’t sound like a good idea to me, but after I let the air out, I pulled up and away from Craig Mac, which NEVER happens.
We regrouped at the 3.5 mile mark, at the start of the Bald Rock Mountain Trail, where the young bucks headed up and Mac and I doubled back.
It was crazy fast and fun running down the long downhill. While the track was not frozen solid, it made it possible to lean the bikes over and keep rubber down as we twisted and skidded our way back to the parking lot. I’ve got to improve my footwear situation. I should of listened when Marcia told me to throw out these batteries,just because they were 6 years old.
[ Note: Be prepared to pay $1.50 each to enter the Park. Have the change ready. ]
Since the last appreciable snow feel here on Halloween, the ground has been bare, until yesterday, when we had 6 inches blow in from the northeast. I spent the morning inside, with a package of fluorescent highlighters, plotting possible route for an upcoming hike through New Mexico, but that’s another upcoming story.
Snowshoeing started today. I decided to spend a couple of hours walking around the route just outside my door. Reading the data on the GPS, I was stunned to see that all of the walking I did was within one square mile. I wanted to listen to my iPhone while I walked, so I tracked my progress with my Garmin eTrex30 and this time, was able to successfully upload the file from my computer right into my Strava app to register my progress.
Here’s the map:
I’m still totally pleased with my MSR Lightening Axis snowshoes. They are still perfect after two seasons. The bindings are ” lightening fast”, and never need adjusting on the trail.
Most folks own large pieces of property here, ranging from 130 to over 1,000 acres. In fact, just three families own all the land on both sides of High Street for 1.3 miles heading up to Moody Mountain road. I have permission to walk all of it. I cut the “Uncle Tom ” trail that runs up to the summit of Moody Mountain on one of these tracts.
Once I got up to the ridge, my navigating was aided by a deer path.I had just a Patagonia Wool 2 long sleeve shirt on top under a soft shell, but 500 feet of elevation in a mile of snowshoeing had me sweating profusely. From the top, I bushwhacked down beside Moody Mountain road on an ancient road that probably is a couple of hundred years old. I heard that there were several families that used to live on the north side of this mountain, way back. I’ve not yet found old foundations where they lived.
Normally, I use High Street to walk home, but today I wanted a longer workout with the snowshoes, so I walked down hill and turned left onto the closed gravel Martin Corner Road where I followed fresh ski and snowshoe tracks around Moody Pond. The tracks eventually stopped and doubled back, so I broke fresh trail all the way back home.
I was exhausted when I reached the house, and still am. Snowshoeing is tougher than hiking, especially in powder. You have to widen your normal gait to account for the width of the shoes, and despite the claws underneath, you are not immune to sliding as you traverse sloped terrain.
I’m hearing the distressing, high-pitched whine of a snowmobile outside as I write this. Looks like the Pugsley has a freshly packed trail that will freeze up nicely overnight. I’m riding snow this weekend.
This time of year, my Twitter feed is jamming up with “Top Ten” lists from 2012. While I think it’s great to compile the best from the avalanche of information that’s that’s cascading over us, most of it is just clever advertising.
That being said, I am filtering through and blogging up the good lists. Here’s one:
My last post, the “Cycling Eight“, came from this Adventure Cycling Association list. I can see where my interest in both bicycling and camping is headed. I am not a member of the ACA, but I just requested a trial issue of their magazine.
I decided to modify the “10 Things You Don’t Need” to address backpacking.
1) You don’t need an expensive backpack. I have a pricey Arc’teryx and customer service has been a curse. Never again. Best to have something that fits well. Most packs hold up, even used ones.
2) You don’t need special Goretex/waterproof backpacking boots. They’ll plague you with blisters. Go with lighte, breathable alternatives.
3) You don’t need lots of money. In 2007, I thru hiked the AT with Lifetraveler, who also completed the trail in 5-and-1/2 months on just $2,000, and one pair of boots.
4) You don’t need “backpacking clothing”. You can outfit at a Goodwill. If stuff wears out go back.
5) You don’t need multiple sets of spare clothing. I use one set. When I reach a washer and drier, I change into my rain gear and wait for my clothes to clean and dry. If it is warm out, water sources can be a place to get water to wash, and the sun works well as a drier.
6) You don’t need a lot of stuff to cook and eat with. I use 1 pot, one spoon, and a cup.
7) You don’t even need to be physically fit. I just watched “Walking the Great Divide“, where three guys each lost at least 20 pounds in their first three weeks of backpacking. You start slow and get more efficient. Weekend warriors may need to be in better shape.
Time for me to get out and shovel away a half foot of snow.
Crazy weather here in coastal Maine in December.
I do what I can, trying for daily outdoor sessions.
A couple of days ago, it was still raining, but I had to get out- I did a 4 mile hike from the house around Moody Pond. We’ve had 4 inches of rain here in the last week. I started out walking down the abandoned Proctor Road, which is just a stream on top of mud.
After I leaped over a stream, I cut onto a snowmobile trail that led to the “closed” Martin’s Corner Road, where I was careful to stay out of the water here.
This was a big blow down from the wind a couple of days ago, which gusted to 60 MPH. I was afraid I might get electrocuted, so I pushed through thick brush where I scratched my legs on the briars.
Here’s a map of the hike. My house is just at the edge of the map, up top.
Yesterday the thermometer read 21 degrees when I left the house to join 8 other Bubbas for our regularly scheduled Sunday ride. Nate said that we’ve been able to get some good miles out each month this year, even through last winter. There was some mud out here in the lower portions of the ride, but major ice flows on the long exposed ledges up on the top of Mt. Pleasant. Not many of us were even willing to try and ride up, and chance a bone-crushing fall on the solid ice. Hike-a-bike is what I call it.
This was also the first time that we took an alternate route back down, heading way right off the summit, and snaking our way over abandoned jeep trails interspersed with dry steep granite, and low growing shrubs. Scary steep in places, but my trust in momentum and tire adhesion worked again.
I chose my fat-tired Pugsley for this ride. It continues to shine in these in-between-seasons conditions.
Lately, I have been able to keep ascending through muddy climbs and rocky stuff, even passing some of the guys who usually toast me when it’s dry and grippier. Love the white bike!
The best part of the ride for me today was the long descent at the end. You can see it starting on the elevation profile below, right about the 5.4 mile mark. I was riding behind Rigger, who waited for me half-way down. I like to follow him, because he’s excellent at picking good lines through impossible stuff. There have been some serious crashes on this downhill over the years ( Nelson comes to mind), so we all continue to watch out for each other.
I had some battery left in my iPhone, so I inserted the headphones, cranked up the volume, and had Neil Young and the Horse as my soundtrack for the ride out to the car. Do check out “Driftin’ Back”, the 27 minute extravaganza off Mr. Young’s most recent CD, “Psychedelic Pill”. I thank my peretually-musically-enhanced buddy Lock for being persistent in bringing Mr. Young to my ride today, and most every day this December.
The weaving through the winter countryside was magical today. I even pulled some holiday spirit back home with me.