When a Mile and a Half is Enough

My Ice Cream Truck is back from the bike shop.  The big, black, two-wheeled tractor has suited me well on the 10 mile loop that I put together for myself on this Patriot’s Day holiday here in Maine.
The bike went to the shop after my 4.7” 45N Dunderbeist rear tire sported a two inch tear right along the rim line last Thursday night on Ragged Mountain.  It wasn’t my fault. The tire had 161 miles on it.

This
This

I hit nothing that tore it.  It just failed.  Luckily I was not running tubeless. I was sporting a minor bulge, due to the 6 pounds of pressure I had in the tube.
My upgraded tire is the improved version of the Dunderbeist, with the same grippy tread pattern as before, along with additional interior layers of fabric that were added to the sidewall. Under warranty for the next two years, there was also no charge for mounting either.  Thanks, Sidecountry Sports, and 45North for the quick service.   I am ready to roll again.

I continue to be interested in backpacking, hiking, and riding my bike close to home. Since I  have read Microadventures, I have experienced increasing satisfaction in my outdoor recreational activities. I have also been outside almost every day.  The radius of my path today was just a mile and a half, yet it took me thirty-nine years to discover two distinct segments of today’s ride. Yes, I have mountain bike trails from right out my door. I have NEVER seen anyone else riding this loop other than when I  meet up with snowmobile riders, but that might not ever happen some winters.

Here’s one of the views on this ride, this one not 10 minutes ride from my driveway.

Hidden pond
Hidden pond

On the abandoned Martin Corner Road, there are often these large waterholes that linger after any hard rain. Martin  My riding pal Andy Hazen rides though here often. He tells a story about escaping the jaws of a snapping turtle that was hanging out in one of these pools a couple of years ago.

After ascending the steep section of Moody Mountain Road, the middle of this ride is along and around the French Road that runs north along the back side of Moody Mountain toward Levensellar Pond.  This loop is the product of decades of my clearing and connecting the old snowmobile trails.

Here are a couple of shots of an old woods road that loops off the French Road.

Pretty clean
Pretty clean

Headed out

A blow down blocks the trail ahead, where I have cut a go-around that hardly visible to the unschooled eye.

Make no mistake, this loop requires at least two and a half miles of climbing.  After the ascent up to the high point on Moody Mountain Road, the climbing continues along a woods road that almost reaches the ridge above High Street.

One more climb off the Muzzy Ridge Road leads to  a huge blueberry expanse that comes with a view of the Atlantic beyond. FullSizeRender 11

The end of the ride includes three miles of descent, part of which is freshly maintained snowmobile trail that leads off the blueberry field, where it twists and turns its way back down to High Street and then back to my house.  I have been hiking it for a few times before today. This is the first time that I have ridden this segment.  Unfortunately, a new blow down really needs a chain saw to clear it out.  I plan to bring along a small hand saw next time to clear a route around the blow down.

Sometimes, going around is better than forging ahead.

selfie

Thank you,  Strava.

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Fitness Goal + Data = Gold !

You can’t purchase your miles of foot powered travel.  Sure, you can buy experiences that frame human powered travel, but to move from point A to point B simply takes work, and time.

For 2015, my oldest son Lincoln encouraged me to set a daily goal of 1 hour of either bicycling, jogging, or backpacking.  Being a data hound, I track my progress.  If data is not of the slightest of interest to you, you’d better close this window and move on.

Until January 1, 2015 I logged my exercise time with the Fitbit app on my iPhone 5s. People may not realize that Fitbit lets you track workouts without necessarily buying a $150 Fitbit wrist tracker.  The free Fitbit app utilizes my iPhone 5s’s M7 motion coprocessor, a part specifically designed to measure motion-related data from the iPhone’s accelerometer, gyroscope and compass.  My “cheater” Fitbit works fine. I  aim for 10,000 daily steps, the equivalent of 5 miles of foot travel. In fact, Fitbit just “awarded” me the Monarch Migration badge, for completing 2,500 miles since I logged in on Jan. 1, 2014.

But things clicked even better for me when I ponied up $59 (a year) for the Strava Premium membership. I wanted to access the Strava Goals, unavailable on the free version.  With a bump up to Premium, you get to set time or distance goals and track your progress by the week or the month, as my 2015 data below illustrates.  This particular feature made all the difference to me in 2015.

screenshot 11 I decided to aggregate both bicycling and foot travel (hiking/walking/jogging) toward that 1 hour goal. By checking via the  various choices of  Strava Premium’s graphics, I could see how I was doing each week. If I was experiencing a slim week, I’d plan to go outside on the weekend and would, for example, log a 3 hour hike in the State Park here in town and end up finishing the week with at least 7 hours of fairly brisk motion.

I surpassed my daily goal of 1 hour (365 hours) for 2015 !  Here’s the data:

screenshot 12I’m not going to rant about the 85 personal records that I accomplished in the 273 activities that I engaged in during 2015, however, that is another ingenious aspect of Strava.  Or the fact that many of the folks that I hike and ride with are also using Strava, where we can view and encourage each other’s efforts, and even send each other GPX tracks of interesting routes that we’ve discovered.

It just keeps going and going….If you need even higher degree of data analysis ( like the” 3D rotating elevation profiler”) of your Strava data then check out Veloviewer!

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So, I have three new goals for 2016:

-1,000 miles of biking

-1,000 miles of hiking in Maine

-75 minutes of daily biking, hiking, or backpacking (525 minutes / week).  To read about the magic  525 minute threshold, check out one of my posts from 6 month ago entitled  Exercising Inadequately, Excessively, or Just Right ?

Anyone else logging their lives out there, or do you just go ?

 

 

First Fat Ride in 2016

BubbasinBogTen riders set out the morning of January 1 to kick off the first day of The Bubbas’ 2016 mountain bike riding season.

Weather conditions from the top of the ground up were perfect for January: temps around freezing, sunny patches on the ground, blue skies, no wind. If you didn’t wear too much today, you would be warm and dry, without feeling too much like the rolly-polly Michelin man.

However, from the top of the snow down to muddy earth below, the conditions were not as good.

People hear about “snow bikes” running on 4-inch and even 5-inch wide low PSI pressure tires and assume that anytime there is snow on the ground you can get out there and have a magic floating experience. Not really.

Take this morning for instance. As we started the ride the air temperature rose above freezing. What was solid and grippy underneath before the sun did its thing started getting soft and mushy- the snow started loosening up. Translation–>I’m puting out twice as much physical effort to move through 4″ of snow that is loose than if it were packed and refrozen.

Here’s a video of one of our most excellent Bubba riders, Ian, making the Bog entrance segment look easy when it really wasn’t. Notice the sideways front end throw and the correction at 0:04.  Upper body  engagement is the hallmark difference between summer and winter riding in these parts.

Nowhere is the riding experience between a stationary bike (think Spinning) and riding outdoors on an actual trail so pronounced as it is under these conditions. The upper body and lower back are engaging repeatedly, in order for forward movement to occur.

Here’s some info about my personal experience today on my Strava. The distance/moving time/elevation/suffer score tells it all. Wearing a heart rate chest strap today, I was pleased to see that my average heart rate was close to 100 beats higher per minute for the whole ride than is my normal resting pulse rate. The 400 calorie measure was definitely an underestimate.      :

screenshot 10

I’ve ridden this loop over 100 times, and it still brings me great pleasure to move through these woods.

By the look on Blaine’s face,  he’s enjoying it as well.

Periennially photogenic Blaine.
Perennially photogenic Blaine.

The day was fun.  It was tougher than usual out there, but as someone says on every one of these rides, “It sure beats the couch.”

Here is Nate the Great heading out.

I’m definitely coming back here on Sunday, where we’ll see the benefit of 10 riders who took the time to pack a fast, solid track today.

Definitely a happy New Year.

Bubbas Riding The Bog – Dec. 26

Wierd warm weather brings me teetering to the cusp of 2016.
I can’t ever remember riding my mountain bike through the midcoast Maine woods and waters when it was this warm. It’s sweet calm today at fifty-seven degrees, windless, with blue skies.
I ride bikes with a regular dozen and a-half of local mountain bikers- The Bubbas.  We’ve been at it for thirty years, riding year round except for hard rain or most snowstorms.

This time of year, riding might involve the whole gamut of weather from dusty dry in the summer, to a winter like last when record breaking feet of snow made the snow-covered trail more difficult to move through.  In typical winters, multiple layers of lesser snowfalls thaw and refreeze, resulting in a much firmer tread underneath.

It’s my first pain free ride since October 6, the date of my first night ride of the cold season.  On that dark evening, I pulverized the skin of the top of my left shin when my bike threw me sideways while I was riding across a fairly shallow, but rocky stream. There was a loose layer of freshly fallen leaves obscuring the true nature of the nasty path underneath.

I learned two valuable lessons that next morning.
First, if you need to close a wound, you better get it stitched within an 8 hour window, a medical fact that least one emergency room doctor cited in his decision to leave my wound open. However, I was sent home with with enough really big band-aids, extra gauze, and enough leukotape to fill a paper bag. Second lesson: “Scabs that are really vast, deep, and wide may stick around for almost 3 months.”

There were six of us riding in the Rockland Bog today, with five of us on fat tire bikes and Buck on his 29er. My Surly Pugsley is grinding into its 6th season this spring, and churn it did today, through black pools of thick, cold water with various depths of mud underneath.  Here’s an example of a wet area here in The Bog.

At the end of this post, you’ll see this 100 foot bridge in action.

I kept the rubber on the ground today, and rode well enough to get my third best time heading up The Bog Road Climb.

Sometimes it’s wiser to walk than ride. Here’s Craig and Rigger walking a stream today.

Stream Crossing on The Highland in the Bog
Stream Crossing on The Highland in the Bog

On these group rides I often ride behind Rigger.

Rigger- ready, and in control.
Rigger- ready, and in control.

Rigger is known for steadily getting through mud, tough climbs, and impossibly rocky twists. He sometimes lifts his bike to fly when he launches off a ledge’s lip on a steep downhill.

Signing off with a video of Rigger and Craig riding that bridged section that Chris McKearney built so well.

Eight to twelve inches of snow is predicted tomorrow. While the terrain will be dramatically different in a whiter shad of pale, we’ll definitely be back at it again.   Soon, I hope.

My ups (and some downs) with Strava

I began tracking my biking, hiking, and walking efforts with  the Strava app on Christmas day back in  2011.  According to their website, “Strava lets you track your rides and runs via your iPhone, Android or dedicated GPS device and helps you analyze and quantify your performance. Strava provides motivation and camaraderie”.

I had been using the free version of the program until Dec. 31 of this year when I decided to pony up the $59 a year Premium fee and avail myself of the additional features at that level.  Three Premium features that I have used so far include GPX file downloads and transfers. I have not yet downloaded any other hiker or rider routes to my Garmin eTrex 30 GPS, but plan to do so in the next few months.

I also sometimes strap on my Garmin chest monitor and record my heart rate, which converts to a Suffer Score, which quantifies my suffering and allows me to visualize exactly how hard I have worked on a particular hike or ride. My most intense workouts yield a a special class of Points in the Red.  My Polish suffering gene interfaces well with the Suffer Score.

But the one feature that convinced me to pay for the use of the program is the ability for me to set goals and monitor them.  On Jan. 1 of this year, I took the advice of my son Lincoln, where I set a goal of 1 hour a day of either biking, walking, or backpacking for the whole year.  Strava allows you to set goals for distance or time.

I religiously track my progress week over week.  Simply put, I need 7 hours a week to stay on track.  I often take a day off between particularly hard workouts to recover, and things come up so it’s good to have some way of sticking with the program, even it it is an hour a day.  I often put in a longer ride or hike a few hours at the end of any week where I was slacking  in the beginning.

Here’s one of the visual presentations that has encapsulated my progress from Jan. 1, 2015 up to today:

Hourly achievement to date ( 2015)
Hourly achievement to date ( 2015)

As a psychologist, I am awed by the power of the reinforcement of this cart- to me.  To others, it may mean nothing.  This is the real data deal.

What is also satisfying about the program is the ability of Strava to aggregate data and present it in a manner that compares not only hourly progress, but progress within repeated walks, hikes, or rides.

There are stories about individuals that become obsessed about moving up the rankings for speed on segments of popular rides.  For instance, there is a Strava segment of the climb up Moody Mountain Road, which is just 1.2 miles from my doorway.  There are 87 people that have recorded their effort climbing this 1.8 mile section of 4% grade of 383 feet of elevation gain.  All are ranked in order, and there is one King of the Mountain on the top of the list.    I am not motivated by moving up the list, but I am motivated by knowing that I  am improving on my own performance.

For 2015, I am shocked and pleased  to see that I have broken 67 personal records,  when I compare my times since Dec. 2011.  Most of the time, I feel that I do pretty well out there, but there are days like yesterday when I nearly bonked on a ride that we call The Bog From The Pit.  Here’s that data:

Sunday ride
Sunday ride

But I didn’t totally crash and burn out there yesterday. If I had lost my mojo and landed on the ground in a weeping heap, then either Rigger or Kevin would have picked me up and helped me out.  I really enjoy riding with these Bubbas in the Woods, a group of Midcoast Maine faithful who have included me in their thrice weekly mountain bikes rides for close to 30 years now.

Bubbas in The Bog
Bubbas in The Bog

The big picture is what Strava offers me, and I like it.

Between Strava and The Bubbas, I am still moving along.

Riding the Pugsley over Hosmer Pond

Ian and Buck head north
Ian and Buck head north

Who would believe it?  Just a week or so ago, the lakes and ponds in midcoast Maine were still open. But all that changed his past week when the temperatures dropped below freezing for several days in a row. Once outside temps reach zero, an inch of new ice gets added on ponds and lakes in one day.

Today was a day to be ready for serious cold.  At 7 in the morning, it was three degrees at the house.  It got up to nine when I left to ride the trails around Ragged Mountain, just 15 minutes away.  Bubba Church is usually Sunday morning, but there going to be a badass mess of snow, sleet, freezing rain, and then rain, so our ususal Sunday ride came one day earlier this week.

I am using a couple of new products while riding the bike this winter season.

1)First, let’s talk feet.  I don’t bother with expensive insulated boots that are specific to bike riding in the deep cold- for example,  45North’s Wolvhammers list for $325.  They have cleats that allow you to clip into your pedals. Instead,  I run a pair of $12 plastic flat pedals on my Pugsley fat bike, wearing my trusty 15 year old LLBean insulated winter boots- they are plenty roomy with one pair of thin wool Darn Tuff socks.

The new product under my feet is a mesh plastic insole that creates an airspace between the bottom of my foot and the removable boot liner.  The insoles have 4 layers of plastic screening inserted between 3 layers of finer screening. I find my socks stay drier, and that I have warmer feet when using them.  photo  I got mine through Ben’s Backwoods, a very good place to purchase practical items for those of us that spend time in the northern forest, all year long.

2) Another combo that works for me this season is inserting chemical hand warmers into my handlebar pogies.  I have a pair of high-vis green Cordura three year old Stellar Bags pogies made by a Minnesota  cyclist who no longer sells them but there are plenty of others out there on the market: Revelate Designs, Dogwood Designs, Bar Mitts and Gup Gum Gear.  Pogies do a great job of protecting my hands from the elements, especially the wind which can cool down hands fast and they let you ride wearing lighter gloves.

When then temps get really cold, I activate and then insert throw-away chemical hand warmers into the pogies, and continue on with light wool gloves.  However, I didn’t like buying and throwing away cases of the hand warmers ( really- 12 pack cases).  One of the vendors at this year’s Snow Walker’s Rendezvous had reusable hand warmers that are made  in Maine.  The product is Lemay’s Cozy Campers.  81F5Q+a9M4L._SL1500_ These are reusable sodium acetate hand warmers that are activated by flexing a metal disc that is suspended in the gel medium.  Ten minutes of boiling after use recharges the units for the next time.  I have been using this product for 4 times now. It gets warm really fast, but has a much shorter warming period than the metallic mesh throw-away hand warmers.  Since my rides are no longer than 3 hours total outdoor time, they are fine for what I do, but if you are out all day and need many hours of warm hands, then they may not be the best choice.

The Camden Snow Bowl, our ride destination today, is still under massive reconstruction, and any riding needs to stay away from the build zone.  Our 11 mile ride today began with a serious climb up past the left side, via the top of the toboggan run onto 22 Tacks, then linked up with the Ragged Mountain Runoff bike race loop. From there, we did Jason’s Trail, then onto the seldom traveled Milk and Cookies, until we descended on the Five Brooks trail to the excellent new network of swoopy singletrack at the base of Rollins Road.  There is no parking at the end of Rollins, so while part of the group rode the road back to the parking area at the tennis courts at the Snow Bowl, Jason, Ian , and I bushwhacked out way to the left around the outlet from Hosmer Pond  until we got to the solid ice and then proceeded to whoop it across the half-mile of  black glass to our cars.

Wow!  Ice this clear and smooth is rare.

Straight down onto the ice
Straight down onto the ice

I’m running studded tires, but Ian and Buck didn’t need then as they rode up onto two of the granite islands and powered-slid around on the ice as we made our way back to the cars in the other side.

Ian in control
Ian in control

Big big smiles as we powered north on top of the water  !

 

Microadventure on New Year’s Day

First ride on the first of 2015- 11.5 miles long.  Seven Bubbas showed up.

The Rockland Bog
The Rockland Bog

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.

Hoar frost holds up the Pugsley
Hoar frost holds up the Pugsley

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.   photo 3

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.

Craig Mac's line
Craig Mac’s line

Downed spruce trees forced a lot of hike-a-bike, and detouring through the edges of the forest.

Nate and The Hawk do the shuffle
Nate and The Hawk do the shuffle

Eric  was not at his usual position near the front of the ride, but he was working a New Year’s Eve excuse .

Eric moves forward
Eric moves forward

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  !

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.

The Sunday When Winter Went Away

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.  screenshot 3

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.

Yo, Heave Ho!
Yo, Heave Ho!

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. IMG_2853
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!

Ian improvising a fix- photo by John Anders
Ian improvising a fix- photo by John Anders

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.