Big life, big bike- Bubba style

I joke about attending the Church of Two Wheels on Sunday mornings.  But it’s no joke.
Riding with my long-time friends from the Midcoast Maine never ceases to amaze me.  Week after week, the bikes don’t break, we don’t crash (much), and we experience the pure joy of playing around in the woods, challenging ourselves on repeated sections of terrain.  This has been going on close to 20 years, all year round!  This past winter was a great one for riding these same trails when they are covered with packed snow and ice.  Today, my fat-tire Pugsley stayed home and my full suspension Santa Cruz Tallboy was resurrected  back into action.  The bumpy ledges and long  downhill from the top was kinder to my deteriorating shoulders than the rigid framed Pugs.
A bunch of The Bubbas have downloaded the Strava app on our phones or via our GPS  devices.  We encourage each other and share rides that we’ve completed with the rest of the the guys (and gals now) !  We now have maps!
 Pleasant map

Pleasant map

We get elevation profiles, like this one from Sunday’s ride on Mt. Pleasant !

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Here’s me jumping on the Tallboy, and following Rigger’s line for the ride down from ” the Blueberry field” to the ” Three way”.

photo by John Anders

photo by John Anders

3 minute video of me descending Mt. Pleasant <<– Click to view three minutes of pure joy, complete with me chuckling as The Hawk and I jockey for the right side into the singletrack.  Thanks to The Hawk for sending me his clip, and The Bubbas for being there for me, week after week.
Sanctuary.

Bubbas Still Staying Up

Six Bubbas attended Sunday’s Church of Two Wheels 10 mile long service in Warren, Maine today.

After the melting snow cover caused me to cut short my plans for a long snowmobile trail ride on Friday, I expected that today would be the same: crumbling patches of ice, mud sections, and that sudden sinking on the front wheel scenario, complete with cockpit ejection over the handlebars. I’m very pleased to say that the subfreezing temps from last night and our 9:30 AM start set things up nice and solid.

For those of you who think that these well-attended winter rides are only suitable for us fat-tire riders, check out this video clip from the ride. Listen to the crunch of the ice beneath the tires while The Hawk comes into view on his Mukluk, closely followed by Rigger and Nate on their 26-inch-tire mountain bikes.

Another Wednesday snowstorm is predicted this week- could be at least 6″ of snow. Winter riding is still going strong in the Midcoast this Spring season.

Afternoon riding = not a great idea

The light was thick and golden, temps were up near freezing, and it was Friday afternoon- perfect time to hop on the Pugsley and ride 6 miles via Hobbes Pond and check on the camp. I left at 3 pm. I didn’t make it.
Right from the start it began. I was descending the hill through a huge field in back of my neighbor’s house on what I thought were hard- packed snowmobile tracks when the bike started this weird fishtailing. I was sinking in. The heat from the winter sun is apparently not so feeble anymore. Thankfully the frozen surface returned when I resumed riding in the forest, where the sun had not penetrated. Someone had been out before me lately on a fat bike. I saw the tracks. Things went really well until I came out into the open fields around the back side of Moody Pond where the afternoon sun had melted the surface enough for the 4″ wheels to sink down so far that I couldn’t pedal forward.
I detoured around the pond via Martin Corner Road, which turned out to be a bad move. No snowmobiles had been over the discontinued town road in weeks, it appeared. The only tracks were from one lonely cross country skier.

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I tried riding on them but they were too narrow. I had to hike-a-bike. It sucked. Both the bike and I were sinking- me, enough to have snow coming into the tops of my boots. I was overheating, and under the delusion that I would be hit a shaded section where I could get back on my bike and ride. Nope.
It was a relief when I reached the pavement on Moody Mountain Road. I headed uphill, when I decided that it was not the best day to try and ride those 6 miles over land and pond to get there (and come back). So I banged a right on the snowmobile trail that took a steep descent onto Moody Pond. The thick ice on the pond was just what I needed to get that riding feeling back under me again. Here’s the ride:
I think it is going to be better to ride in the morning from now on, and hope that it continues to freeze at night. There will be many months to ride on bare ground coming up. Right now, I am enjoying exploring the back spaces of my town.

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White Bike / Cold Darkness

Last night seven fat bike riders covered 11.3 miles at a quick pace over the super compacted snowmobile tread in Lincolnville. It was a loop trip, guided by Jason and Ian, with the Stevens Corner parking lot at Youngtown road as the base.  The ride went clockwise, up the big climb to Bald Rock, then over to Cameron Mtn, and down to the center.  From there out to Coleman Pond and then back through a  frozen swamp.

The ride

The ride

It was 11 degrees when I reached the house at 8 PM.  My hands and feet hurt from the cold.  I have to remember to use chemical heat packets for my hands and feet the next time I ride in this cold, which should happen Friday.

Some of the features of this ride were:

First, how surprisingly rideable the surface was.  It hasn’t been this good this winter.  It should stay good, with the eastern US now locked into a cold pattern , where frigid temps are expected until mid-March.  Warm is good for the soul, but bad for us winter bikers.

Second, it was a gas to have this much fun riding so close to my home.  My new trend is to stay close to home and have local adventures .  The feeling of careening down over a smooth track from Cameron mountain and gliding over a rock garden that makes up the trail in the summertime was unique.

Third:  The bizarre experience of riding along over the top of Coleman Pond was both unsettling, and exciting.  Our little lights put a weak glow into the darkness, and added to the mystery.

And oh, what a deep sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adventure in My Back Yard

Our camp is a ten mile drive from the house. Finding a little authentic Maine camp so close to home was fortunate.

20140202-071017.jpgWe snagged it a decade ago- found it in Uncle Henry’s swap and sell.

I have ridden my mountain bike over land to get there before. I go up over Hatchet Mountain and back down to Hobbes Pond over some abandoned roads to do that in warm weather. One adventure that I have finally completed today was riding my bicycle to camp over snow mobile trails in winter. Here’s the route- a 15 mile round trip. Checkered circle is the start and finish, the unmarked body of water is Moody Pond.

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I took the car over to camp in the morning. It was 22 degrees inside. I started the wood stove and went home, with a plan to ride the Pugsley to camp to eat lunch, relax a bit , and head back home. It took me 50 minutes from the house to bike to the camp, some 6.2 miles away. I took a mix of road and trails to get there. 9 pounds of pressure in my 4″ studded 45N tires was just right until I reached Hobbes Pond where I started to slide on the shiny, slick ice.

20140202-075251.jpgDeflating the tires to about 3 PSI let me ride directly down the middle of Hobbes Pond and come right up to the front door of the camp. It was scary, fun, and exciting to roll over the hard ice at a good clip. I liberated an HTC cell phone ( US Cellular) that was partially frozen into the ice in the middle of the pond. Call me if it’s yours. I am drying it out – hope to locate the owner.

The camp had was now at 62 degrees, comfortable for sure. I hung out, read the new issue of Rolling Stone and cooked up a big bowl of pho. Then a slightly longer trip back, exploring new trail, and detouring around Moody Pond via the Martin Corner road- unplowed, and untracked except for some cross country ski grooves.

i was dismayed to see a string of barbed wire blocking entrance to an open field near the 90 degree turn on Martin Corner Rd.- nasty, rusted barbs at neck height.

20140202-075416.jpg A reminder not to do too much poking around here in dim sunset without headlamps.

When I reached the house, Marcia had fired up the sauna for me. That 185 degree heat was exactly right.

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Riding a couple of miles on the top of a large body of water is not something that is on many people’s bucket list, but it was on mine.

Riding my bike across a frozen pond

We are breaking out into midwinter riding conditions here in coastal Maine. The temps have been consistently in single numbers for a few weeks now, and with diminishing snow cover, the ground can freeze more deeply. Ponds, lakes, and even rivers are also now solid, with at least two feet of ice covering most areas.

I took my first ride over Moody Pond.

20140201-090249.jpg It is thrilling to me to be on top of a body of water that I pass almost daily. Moody is 1.3 miles down High Street from my house. It is both scary and exciting to launch off of land onto a frozen body of water.

20140201-093126.jpg Primitive survival defenses well up as you stand on a substance that you normally sink through. Yet it was safe.

Riding over Moody Pond is just one of three bodies of water that I plan to cross this week. Today I hope to ride over Hobbes Pond, about 5 miles from here. I have a camp there that I hope to check on today. While I have ridden there from the house in the summer, I have never taken the direct route over Moody Pond and then the 1 mile long ride down the center of Hobbes Pond. I’ m both frightened and challenged to do it.

I’ll be taking a two mile long walk over Attean Pond in Jackman this upcoming week, then three more days of walking on the frozen Moose River, where I hope to reach the spectacle of frozen cascades on Holeb Falls. I know it’s sort of nuts, but it’s what I do.

Coldest ride yet?

Steve said no.  Sheesh!

Ian, The Hawk, Eric, and Rigger

Ian, The Hawk, Eric, and Rigger

It was 12 degrees when we started and 12 degrees when five Bubbas completed this Sunday’s ride at the usual winter place, departing from Warren Community School parking lot.

screenshotThere had been an ATV out there, probably sometime yesterday, before a couple of inches of fresh snow accumulated over the track.  The going was a bit slow, more grinding of gears to get as far as we are used to going.  No water at all, the streams and boggy sections are rock solid now, after more sub zero nights.

John Anders might have been working on cleaning up the trail from Stevens Corner parking lot to Tanglewood this morning.  John, you do that?  Also, looks like Walter might have been out earlier today.

The wind was tough- definitely over 10 MPH, putting the wind chill at below zero.  Very much evident riding along the power line to get out to the woods, and on any open areas.  I noticed that even in the woods, the higher points were  getting hit by wind.  This kept our stops short.  Once, we even rode purposely slow on a flat segment instead of waiting for guys in back to catch up.

I had to wear more clothing.  I had the hoodie from my wool shirt up, and wore a fleece  hat over that, under my helmet- had to have sunglasses  to cut the headwind.  I had heat packets in my boots, and inside my handlebar pogies.  The bladder tube on my Camelback had to ride inside my Windstopper jacket, which didn’t feel like it was able to stop all of the wind today.  As the ride went on for a couple of hours, I was getting cold.  I read on Facebook  that putting the heat on your chest may be more effecting than placing the packets on all extremities.  Has anyone tried to see if that makes a difference?

Maybe packets on all the extremities and a chest warmer, too, next time it is like this?

No matter, as Rigger said, ” It’s still better than drinking three hot coffees and eating muffins on the couch while watching Meet the Press.”

I agree.

 

Fatbike Says Bye-Bye to Ice

Pugsley takes the plunge

Pugsley takes the plunge

Sunday’s ride marked the end of our visit on top of  the remains of the ” crystal palace”  around here in coastal Maine.  The ice that we have encountered for the past couple weeks is  gone.

Snow almost gone from blueberry field

Snow almost gone from blueberry field

Five riders made a relatively quick out-and-back 10 mile run from the Warren Community School Parking lot.  screenshot We encountered sections of sheer ice that were over a half mile long, with some portions under water that was flowing across the surface.

Ian and I were on studded 45N tires, Jason had unstudded 45N tires, Walter had Surly Nates.

Walter and Ian take a break

Walter and Ian take a break

The Hawk never complained while churning away strong on regular 26″ tires.  Ian declared that studded tires were a good purchase for these conditions- he was consistently far ahead of the rest of the pack.  I even passed Jason once. THE ONLY way that happened is because of the metal pins protruding from my tires.  Walter did OK on his unstudded set, but stated that he is planning to buy a set of studded 45 N’s. Sidecountry in Rockland has some.   At times, he was slipping and sliding.  Walter  told me that Bath Cycle already sold out of the 30 pair that they had a couple of weeks ago.

Enough snow had melted to set up detours around the ice.

Jason goes around

Jason goes around

The feeling of rolling over glistening ice is unique. I expected to go down at some point over the two hour ride, but never did.

Did I tell you how much I am enjoying the winter,  while riding my Pugsley?

Bailing bikes from the Bush

Andy and I were fortunate to escape from the trail this afternoon without broken hips or concussions.  Ice, ice, baby.  Ice that has been present for a couple of weeks had just received a faint dusting of dry snow, which lubricated the surface, hiding the worst ice flows and skidding one sideways on slopes.

Packing a saw and a small axe,  the was plan was to hit the snowmobile trail from here on High Street over to Moody Pond, where we’d clear any remaining blockage from trees that had bent or even fallen down due to the weight of the ice on the limbs.

It wasn’t very long until we were in trouble.  I am not going to publicize exactly what event occurred in the first two minutes of riding due to fear of significant others ( i.e. wives) likely scrutiny of this entry, and neither do Andy nor I give up on much of what we try to do, but we both were in total agreement we had to get off the trail.

We were riding fat bikes- me the Pugsley, and he his Farley.  We let almost all the air out of our tires to increase the contact patches.  The problem was his lack of studs on his tires.  I was able to grip the ice.  I couldn’t walk without slipping all over the place, but he couldn’t walk or ride. We actually tried to walk the bikes back up the big open field we were moving through but couldn’t get up.  Below us was more descent and then flatter, wooded conditions, which we aimed for.

It was no better on the flat.  After reaching the edges of his land, we cut through the woods and headed back through the field across from his farm.

Still, I was able to ride, and ride anywhere. My bike floated over the untracked snow, which was covered by that lubricated  ice shield that made walking very difficult.

I was instantly transported back to the 10,000+’ snow covered High Sierra, backpacking in California in 2010, where my booted feet were kicking steps through the ice in the hopes of surviving the traverse.

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Same thing here, with Andy tracking in my steps.  It took us 45 minutes to walk the little blip near the Start and Finish icons below.

Home to Searsmont and back

Home to Searsmont and back

We gathered our senses, congratulated ourselves on making it this far, and looked at our watches.  It was now 3:15 PM. We agreed to stay on back roads and put in some more miles before the riding would get crappy for the next two days, where above-freezing temperatures, and 1-2″ of rain would turn this rock hard surface to a quagmire.

It’s not easy riding the roads with 4 pounds of pressure in your tires, but we made it in before dark, and we agreed to ride again together some time soon and tackle those downed trees.   Maybe Sunday?

Fat tires = flat ( almost) tires

Bubbas back in Warren

Bubbas back in Warren

Sunday morning came and brought back a bunch of Bubbas to ride the wide snowmobile track between Routes 90 and 131 in Warren.  I was overjoyed to get in three rides this week, all on my Pugsley, on trails.

The super hard surface that we encountered on the frosty , single temp New Year’s morning was now looser, and the going was slower.  It was easily twice as much effort to move than was the case on our last time out.

We had an array of bikes and tire sizes taking to the trail today: several fat tire bikes, a few traditionally sized 26″ mountain bikes, and one 29er.  Some tires were studded some not.

The fat bikes did the best, although Eric placed his 29er bike right up there with them-  running Knobby Nics- 2.35″ wide with 7.5 psi in the front a slightly more in the back.   The guys with regular tires on 26″ bikes trailed.

The going was best in the wooded sections, where the shade kept the surface more solid.  Out on the open areas, things got tough for everybody.  The meager sunlight was enough to soften the surface.  Here’s the view back toward  big open area that put most of us into walk-a-bike mode.

Slow going

Slow going

Back at the parking lot, Jason’s pressure gauge revealed some surprisingly low readings. The clear low pressure king was Ian, sporting a measly 2.5 PSI in his studded 45N 4″ rear tire. Both Ian and Jason were running tubeless.

Ian's set up

Ian’s set up

During the ride, I let air out of my tires twice.  I though I had gone too low, so I was  surprised that I was running a positively plump 7.5 PSI.  I could have gone lower, and will try to do that next time.  Dropping down to 7.5 definitely gave me more traction.  A couple of fat tires had 5 PSI.  I hear Steve say that he had 28 PSI in his 26″ tire. I think he was the only person who crashed the biggest downhill , and he riding in back, not up front, as is usual for him.

I think that four of us have 45N tires for this winter season.  I bought mine at Bath Cycle, who told me that they had 30 sets left as of two weeks ago.  They are pricey , but Lord, do they hold on the sheer ice sections, and what price is reasonable in order for me to avoid a broken hip?

Studded 4" tire

Studded 4″ tire

Since the ride, I have viewed a great Youtube video of by John Anders riding in nearby Thomaston (Maine)  this past week.  I think the rider is his wife Tonya.  Thanks John, for another excellent vicarious ride on  the snow.