Yup. Looks really interesting. Planning on attending this event.
We depend on freeze thaw cycles in order to ride our bicycles over the snow on the trails here in midcoast Maine. That hasn’t occurred lately. It didn’t happen this weekend either.
Nevertheless, I’m pleased to have put in two rides, back to back, in less than optimal conditions. I’m pumped to start 2015 by getting outside again.
On Saturday I joined 4 other Bubbas in the Woods members for my first ride in 2015 from the Warren Community School parking lot. It was as brutal a cold that I’ve ever rode in. Even at the usual 9:30 am start time, Nate said it was only 1 above zero when he left his house in Union. It might have crept up to single numbers after our two hour ride, but not by much.
How does one deal with moving through cold like that? I am used to the cold, but my fingers and toes aren’t. With a resting pulse of a turtle, and 6’2” of height, by the time my core heats my blood up and pushes it to my extremities, I don’t retain heat way out at my physical fringes. I had to take off a shirt layer after the first big uphill in Warren, but needed extra help to keep the digits happy.
I needed three sources of protection for my hands today: winter gloves, inside pogies ( oversized handlebar-end covers), with reusable chemical heat packs wedged between my gloves and the pogies.
My feet survived the cold with the help of toe-sized chemical heat packs stuck to the top side of my thin woolen socks, inside some ancient LLBean rubber bottom/leather top hunting boots, with pair of thermal mesh air soles between the bottom of my sock and the boot. I moved to flat pedals last season, after suffering through too many winters with clip on pedals and winter biking shoes. If oversized boots and flat pedals get picked to ride the Alaskan winter trails, I’m down with that.
How was the riding ? It’s hard to be objective. Last winter, this same Warren route was so good. We had an ice highway running through these woods. There was plenty of snow, with numerous snowmobiles packing the track, and a cycle with warmer days , then drops below freezing each night. This snow out here is not solid on top. While most of the trail today was decent, there were sections where the snowmobile track was pitched to the side, with the bikes siding sideways as we churned forward. You also absolutely had to ride within the narrow snowmobile track. When I found my front wheel outside that, onto the ski track of the snowmobile, I went sinky, and often stoppy. It’s more work riding on the snow. It felt like fifteen miles of riding in Warren, but was only eleven.
For very next day, Sunday, the weather pundits prophesied a whole different story: morning rain and temperatures rising to the upper 40’s. The wonder of the imternet and subsequent weather Apps opens a whole new world to us who watch the weather to plan out outdoor adventures. We learned that it would stay freezing until day break, when the temps would rise and the rain begin around noon.
Jason Buck led Blaine and me on a most enjoyable ride around the winter-only riding trails that encircled the little town with the big name: Hope. But to get in on this ride, you had to be ready to leave from Hope Center at 8 am, a time change that left most of the faithful still sleeping.
There was no way I was going to miss this ride. I am currently obsessed with the ideas put forward in Microadventures, an e-book by Alistair Frasier. it will be released as a traditional book in march 2015 in the US. In it, Frasier lays out practical suggestions on having hiking, biking, and even river swimming adventures in one’s own local community.
We had our own genuine microadventures this morning: riding through ancient farmland, exploring frozen bogs and swamps, and even pedaling over the surface of Megunticook Lake, where a view like this opened up glimpses of distant mountain that are not available any other time of year.
For the first hour and a half the Sunday ride was solid, on snowmobile trails that had been well traveled. We zipped along at a good clip, over, up, and down moguls that sometimes pitching us side to side until we eventually descended to the North shore of Megunticook Lake.
I have walked and rode over many frozen lakes. There were tracks from snowmobiles and ATV’s that we followed, but not much was solid on the big water. We hit stretches of slushy ice, due to the recent snow layer insulating the ice below from the deep cold above. We there are springs in the shallows that also result in open water holes that also have to be avoided.
I particularly enjoyed riding up a very narrow frozen stream between Megunticook and Norton Pond where we threaded our bikes between boulders and up and along a shorefront to reach a bridge with this view of the open water between the lake and pond.
The air temperature had warmed up to the 40’s by 10 AM, when the snow began to get too soft. At one point we had to, “ hike-a bike”, including a section over the well built and maintained Earl Pearse snowmobile suspension bridge. We had hoped to ride over Hobbs Pond to check out a couple of camps on Luce Lane, but by this time, I was spent. It takes twice the energy to ride trails in the woods on the snow in winter than it does to do the same routes on drier ground. We exited the snowmobile trails and rode Barnestown Road and then 235 back to our cars.
I got twenty-two miles and four hours of activity outside in the last two days. Screw the gym. On Sunday, I never ventured further than three miles from my house, on new trails that have somehow escaped me for the past 37 years. Adventures are close by. Me and my trusty Pugsley are looking forward to more of them, hopefully tomorrow.
Here’s the map of Sunday’s ride in Hope:
First ride on the first of 2015- 11.5 miles long. Seven Bubbas showed up.
The initial part of the ride saw a great deal of hoar frost, large white ice crystals that are deposited on the ground. They form on cold, clear nights when conditions are such that heat radiates out to the open sky faster than it can be replaced from nearby sources such as wind or warm objects. Clumps of earth and even rocks cool to below the frost point of the surrounding air, well below the freezing point of water.
In he picture below you can see some of the crystals, some up to 5″ long, mixed into frozen earth. Whoever is riding first through these patches has the hardest time, as the wheels sink through the surface of the leaf-covered crust until they reach solid ground. It’s harder pedaling- in a group, the guys at the back benefit from the work the riders up front do as they level the track.
Today there was plenty of black ice- clear and smooth. That’s not water on top. One of the extensions that we rode today had not been cleared of downed trees from our two ice storms. We’re not going back there until the local snowmobile club hauls out chain saws to clear this trail.
In the photo below, notice the faint trace of a line on the ice to the Nate’s right. A couple of us had studded tires. It’s the track from Craig Mac’s Schwalbe studded 29″ tires on his Santa Cruz Tallboy. I was also able to ride straight over the ice with my 45North studded 4″ tires. The crunch of the carbide studs on the ice underneath my Pugsley is a very satisfying sound.
I rode well today, despite having no drinking water with me. I have been experimenting with eating and hydrating less on these relatively short rides the last few months. If I drink a full quart of water before I ride, don’t overdress, and don’t sweat too much I seem to do fine. The actual moving time for even this 11 mile ride was two and a half hours.
Downed spruce trees forced a lot of hike-a-bike, and detouring through the edges of the forest.
Eric was not at his usual position near the front of the ride, but he was working a New Year’s Eve excuse .
Next up in 2 days is a rare Saturday Bubba ride. There’s a big storm coming in Sunday morning ( the usual schedule), so we’re adapting with a schedule change.
There was bit of chatter today about our goals for 2015. For me, I am hoping for 360 hours of combined biking and hiking in 2015. It is a tough goal, but after today, I’ve already banked 90 extra minutes !
The fat tire bike movement is alive and well with the Bubbas in the Woods, with Nate showing up today with a sparkling new Trek Farley, and the price was right.
It was a group of seven today at Bubba church, six of us riding fat- when we finished, it was 20° out, with a steady wind chill.
Nelson had to hike-a-bike to his truck early on after his compression fork blew a seal and all the oil in his fork ran out. Before he left, his bike looked like cartoon vehicle, with a layer of crispy crown leaves encircling the perimeter of his wheels as the protruding sheet metal screw tips skewered those leaves against the rubber.
Buck’s 45North rear tire suffered a couple of tears, and his tubeless set up required a tube to keep him moving. A cold day to have a mess of white goop to deal with.
There was a great deal of water out on this segment of the Georges Highland Path today.
Here’s Rigger and Nate fashioning a makeshift foot bridge to get us across a flowage that had no other way around.
I rode pretty well today. I thought I might have neglected to bring enough food, but my friend Amy Barnett’s two home made cookies got me through 4 hours and 10 miles of hard going today. I’ve been experimenting with the type and amount of food that I take along with me of my rides and hikes. I find i really don’t need too much to keep going right now.
One thing that did not work out so well today was me staying dry. I was alone, at one point, moving pretty well and following Andre, churning my way over the hummocks and splashing the flowages , and came to a large rock protruding over a small stream with a black hole of water between me and the other side. I decide to push across, except the front wheel dropped into the water so deep that it jammed against the bottom and I went right over the handlebars into the black wet. The bike ended up on top of me and my whole lower body was soaked, with the water making it’s way deep into my boots, and it completely filled my pogies ( cordura handlebar covers). I took off my boots, dumped the water out of them, wrung out my socks and soldiered on.
The combo of the constant water and deeply cold temp wreaked havoc on our drive trains. Chains were seizing up, front derailers would not budge, and the water was refreezing so frequently on the pedals that clipping in was difficult, if not at times impossible. Here is a shot of a rim encased in muddy ice.
Check out the mini glacier above the front derailer.
I am hoping to get another Bog ride in Tuesday night, but now it looks like there will be a storm again- more rain.
I’m waiting tonight outside the shower at the campground, a phalanx of Boy Scouts jamming up the flush and flow in and out of the two men’s toilets, and single shower stall .
I had a great ride earlier this afternoon, and am very pleased to notch 15 miles of sustained pushing on my Santa Cruz Tallboy, whether it was straining to move upward on the steeps, or trying to keep the bike upright as gravity pulled me down these verdant hills.
What’s going on at the Kingdom Trails is barely controlled survival when I careen downward, at times skidding across lateral roots, the ends of the handlebars grazing past tree trunks.
From their website, “Kingdom Trails in Northeast Vermont, a multiple-use trail system unlike any other and voted as the BEST MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAIL NETWORK in North America by Bike Magazine in their annual Reader’s Poll. We were the Editors’ Choice in the Yankee Magazine Travel Guide to New England and were also named BEST OF NEW ENGLAND by Boston Magazine Travel & Life. ”
I am really pleased that I kept the bike upright all afternoon. A lot of the success was due to the engineering of the Santa Cruz Tallboy. To me, the machine is not so much a bike but rather a descending apparatus. The suspension sucks up big hits on rocks and drops off ledges with a unique mechanical squishing sound. It’s totally baffling how the bike sustains it’s integrity, ride after ride, week after week, for years. These guys I ride with are not stick boys, or at least most of them aren’t. They are The Bubbas, who stick it to the trails with authority and confidence. We don’t break these newer bikes (so much), but we’ve demolished earlier frames and components before bicycles became stronger, and correspondingly much more expensive.
I’m sitting here stretching out my aching calf this morning in East Burke, VT after barely suppressing a scream after my lower right leg went into complete tortuous cramp. It’s a new day of riding today at the Kingdom Trails.
I’m here with six other Bubbas who made the trip yesterday from Rockland, ME for the first of our mountain biking holidays this riding season.
We got here yesterday just after lunch, and dodged the rain clouds as we put together 16 miles of whooping, rolling fun here in Vermont’s hilly northeast country.
There’s still a small pile of snow on the north side of my house but I’m declaring “Winter is over!” No where is that more apparent than on today’s mountain bike ride on Mt. Pleasant, here in Midcoast Maine. Just last week, a skeleton crew of Bubbas , labored our way up the 800 foot climb to the top of the mountain, where conditions forced an early bail back to the parking lot. Deep mud, ice, sleet, freezing rain , and then cold rain wore us down.
That was then, this was now. Nine of us went double the distance this week. There is still mud and water to churn through , but it’s not so deep. And not so cold, and the sun was shining. There was one big tree that had to be cleared out in order to to make the ledge challenge possible today. It was a very long and heavy tree.
Once we cleared the fallen timber, the challenge began and just a few of us made it up the ledge challenge. Here’s a video clip of The Hawk and Rigger clearing it:
On the way up, I had what we call “a mechanical”. I had a chain suck, which is a dislodged chain jammed into the drive train somewhere, but not exactly. Then I saw a broken part situation like I’ve never seen before. One of the bigger rings on the rear cassette was bent sideways.
I hiked-a-bike up the last short portion to the top, where Ian launched into action, and went into the woods with a saw, cut a hardwood chisel, sharpened a point on it, grabbed a rock, and made it right. Then he adjusted the rear derailleur and I was able to complete the ride. The guy is an exceptional mechanical problem solver. Thanks, buddy!
The rest of the ride was much better, with the climbing over, well most of it. Ian even made it up the super-challenging Abyss today, a feat that no one else was able to accomplish. It’s astounding that four-wheeled drive vehicles get in here right now, when it is so soft and muddy, and totally churn up these old forest roads. We see parts of cars, lenses, headlight, grills , and undercarriage parts strewn all over the place.
It’s doesn’t get dark now until almost 7:45 PM. Next up will be my first Rockland Bog ride of the season in two days, now that winter is over. I hope to have my Pugsley’s rear cassette replaced by then, where I’ll join my Bubba pals in another wild ride through the forest and streams.
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.
Five riders made a relatively quick out-and-back 10 mile run from the Warren Community School Parking lot. 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.
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.
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?
Four Bubbas represented this Sunday morning at The Bog under spitting skies over icy trails: Nate,Steve, Jason and I.
The view down the powerline was chilling!
We passed it up for the usual 6 mile loop, including the Highland. Whoever was first had the loudest and slowest line. The ground was frozen solid a couple inches under the loose and slippery surface. The light rain was off and on-mostly in between.
I picked the right bike today-the Pugsley. Both Jason and Steve rode from their houses pushing their miles into double digits. Here’s the end of the ride where Steve splits to head to the warmth of the couch.
Here’s the map: