You gotta like slush and mud to be biking in Maine right now

It’ is not even winter yet, but it’s much more challenging to get outside and bike and hike in Maine right now.
First, we’ve already had two major snow storms that have resulted in serious downed limbs, branches, and even whole trees laying across our usual wooded trails.
One November storm was so brutal that we lost our electricity for five whole days. That’s what happens when you have gale force winds pushing against trees rooted atop soft ground that had not even shed their leaves. The weight of twenty inches of wet sticky snow accumulating on the branches makes the trees top heavy, resulting in uprooted messes toppling like pick-up-sticks across the countryside.
A week ago Andre, Buck, and I headed over to the Rockland Bog on snow shoes to clear out some of the usual riding loops that we have been favoring for the past twenty five years.
We all packed small saws that are surprisingly efficient at slicing through even larger trees that lay across the trails, but there were several behemoths that we left for the big boys on their snowmobiles to dispatch with their chain saws.
Here’s Andre using his snowshoes to stay on top of a particularly despicable half frozen mass of broken up ice partially frozen in nasty mudded-up water.

Andre atop ice

Andre atop ice

Sometimes there are no decent go-arounds, and you need to just work straight across, through the ruts and mud.

No place to tip over

No place to tip over

Thank God there are even a few bridges that we can cross. This is not a place to slip into the water, either on foot or a bike .

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Andre and Buck considering foot placement

Just before we got back to the cars in the lot along the Bog Road, we decided to just go around this particular nasty tangle of downed branches, and yes, normally we are in the habit of being able to ride right through this stream and along the path ahead.  Not going to happen.

Almost on the Bog Road

Almost on the Bog Road

Two days later, we three went back in, along with 5 other cultural iconoclasts. The Bubbas in the Woods have been stuck in a rut of sorts,  for a few decades now. We have these group rides on Sunday morning, and also Tuesday and Thursday nights, year after year- for decades. Incredible but true.  This past Tuesday night, it was pitch black at 5:15 PM, the temps were in the low 20’s, and much of what was soft and mucky was now frozen solid and slippery.

I had charged up my Turbocat handlebar and helmet-mounted lights for the event, my first night ride of the fall season. And yes, I realize my ancient Turbocat system is now old history, and after the ride I realized it would be way cheaper for me to upgrade to a Magicshine LED helmet light than to buy another replacement lead-acid battery that was acceptable way back when.

I also hope not to fall, so just in case, I wore my Fox padded shorts underneath my tights to prevent a broken hip or tailbone ( Right,  Lincoln Jamrog ?).  A recent Men’s health magazine article  about winter fat-tire biking, The Winter Sport That Burns 1,500 Calories an Hour, helped explain why I was a hurting unit just a half-hour into Tuesday night’s ride.

It was ridiculously tough going for me- churning through snow, mud, half-frozen water, and trying to see the path through partially fogged up /frozen safety glasses.  Here’s a map of the 7.5 miles that I somehow managed to finish on Tuesday night:

Bog Ride.  Green dot on Bog Road.

Bog Ride. Green dot on Bog Road.

Here’s a pic of the Hawk, taking a quick break in the middle of a particularly wet piece of the Bog ride.  The darkness at the bottom is black pools of water , interspersed between elevated hummocks of land and mounds of solid ground with trees somehow surviving in there.

The Hawk usually churns right through everything

The Hawk usually churns right through everything- not tonight, though.

It’s what we do, and I’m actually looking forward to my next ride in the dark with these guys.

I’m hoping that my new Magic Shine headlamp works it’s magic on my performance out there!

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.