Wet winter biking in Midcoast Maine

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.

A proud owner about to defile his spanking new ride.
A proud owner about to defile his spanking new ride.

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.

Check out that natural tread
Check out that natural tread

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.

Buck deal with a flat
Buck deal with a flat

There was a great deal of water out on this segment of the Georges Highland Path today.

Like this:

 

The bridge engineers
The bridge engineers

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.

A sorry mess
A sorry mess

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.

Time for backpacking again

I have come alive in these past couple of weeks again after a tough winter. The snow is gone, and even the mud is firming up. In the past week, I have enjoyed some mountain bike trail rides with The Bubbas and also started some longer backpacking excursions in Camden Hills State Park. I can’t say enough about how enjoyable the hiking was here on the coast of Maine this week where it is still cool out, the black flies are not much if an issue ye, and the views through the bare trees allow glimpses of the Atlantic waters in unexpected places.
It still rains, but not enough to stop me from going out.
Two nights ago a dozen of riders took to the Rockland Bog for a couple of hours’ riding bikes. It was still raining when we started and there were a few serious mud pits that I splashed through. When go got back to the parking lot, my feet were soaked but I forgot to bring dry socks, so I changed into a pair or bandannas. Stevie Hawk tried to make fun of me, but I knew I enjoyed dry feet, mo matter what the social cost.

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An app that I have been enjoying lately is Fitbit, which normally links to a wristband that costs $100. Those of us who have an iPhone 5s can forgo the purchase, and utilize the phone’s motion sensor to track movement related to walking. I tracked yesterday’s 12 mile backpacking hike in the Camden Hills and ended up with these results for the day:

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It’s reinforcing to see this type of screen at the end of the day, and the ease of entry for foods consumed that day allows me to make progress in keeping my weight down some 10 pounds below normal for me this time of year.

Strava also works into the mix, tallying mileage from my walks, hikes, and bike rides. It all adds up to motivate me to do things outside again. I love generating the elevation profiles, too.

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Here’s yesterday’s alternative to the Stairmaster- actual walking in the spectacle of an awakening forest.

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Bubbas Handle Bar

IMG_1143I’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.

Ridin’ With The Bubbas, update..

Today is the first day of winter, 2008.  When I got up it was 6 below zero out, with some light wind to chill things off a bit more.  There is now 4” of snow on the flats, and today we are going to get somewhere in the range of 12” more snow.  Sunday morning at 9:30 is usually the time when I head on over to Rockland to park just outside of the Bog where I join the Bubbas on one of their now famous thrice weekly mountain bike rides.

Bubba Group Shot
Bubba Group Shot- we take frequent breaks

Last Sunday It was 14 degrees out when we started, and despite the ridiculous temperatures,  ample ice flows and occasional stream crossings, we mustered 10 guys who rammed around in the woods for some three hours, traversing  9 miles of  mogul -infested, mostly single track before all we rolled back into the parking lot to swap tales and socialize before heading home to set up to watch the New England Patriots bash their own way up the list of winners.
I did pretty well out there last week, with only three, relatively minor crashes to my credit. These rides are tough, it is such a workout for me.  I have  taking part in two to three times a week Spinning Classes at the YMCA.  I am the only participant who  leaves a pool of sweat on the mat beneath the bike.  But the Spin Classes are barely adequate preparation for real mountain biking on real trails on real new England single track.  The upper body and midsection is always engaged and adjusting to what’s ahead and underneath us. I am still feeling the effects of the last one, when I catapulted over the handlebars and landed on my left side, extending my palm out to cushion my fall.  I felt my thumb dislocate at the lower joint, but instinctively pushed on it and I felt it click back into place.  I was able to ride back to the car no problem, but the next morning my aching hand was blown up like a balloon.    I decided to wait a couple of days, and see if I had to rule out a break, but the swelling went down and it is close to normal now.
What was particularly amazing about the ride last Sunday, in addition to the double digit number of guys that were out on such a cold day, was the the fact that no one had any mechanical failures.  For the abuse the bikes take, some of them with 200 plus pounders on the seats, it is no less than a miracle of engineering.
Here are a couple of shots:

Neil on the Bike- by the bridge
Neil on the Bike- by the bridge

I was riding in back of Neal when he was trying to pedal around a ice covered pool of black water.  His bike skidded sideways as he was passing by it and things went South from there.  Neil ended up first falling onto a log that had been suspended above the pool, then slid off the log and ended up breaking through the ice, where his feet were still engaged in the pedals.  Then he struggled,  half submerged in icy water with chunks of ice all over the place.  I managed to help him get his feet out of the clips, then hauled the bike away and Neil  slowly got up, real slowly got up.  Neal has taken some serious hits in the past two years, and when you are close to 60, it takes more time to heal up.  I know that deal.

Heading into the Meat Grinder
Heading into the Meat Grinder