Sunday, December 20, 2009

Another Piece of the Puzzle

Every so often I try to connect another section of forest road or trail in a way that I have never done before. Today was one of those times and I put the word out to a few folks that were ready to go along. Although I still did not get it done exactly the way I envisioned the ride, it was pretty close.

There were four of us (See how happy everyone looks? That may not last):

Ed the Tall on his Dos Niner

Tony the Tiger on the Sultan V1

Navy Mike on the lone 26er Rocky Mountain (a bike they should make in big wheels...classic design there)

I was on the Epic Marathon 29er.

We began at Crash Canfield's ranch estate (yeah...everyone gets a name) in Three Points on what was looking to be a really nice day. We have had a pretty early rainy season and it was a cold storm too (thank Al Gore...I know I do), so this area got a fair amount of snowfall. I was counting on more recent and warm rains to have abated that snow pack a bit. I figured on around 30 miles and five hours of riding if we kept to it. I knew that a good amount of the ride would be very slow going, likely hike a bike, but there was enough elevation loss on good singletrack and pavement that we should make my schedule.

We started the ride and soon, only a mile or two down the road, Tony found out he could not unclip his right foot from the SPD pedal. His shoe would just twist around and nothing happened. I guessed that he has the cycling equivalent of a horse losing a horse shoe nail and I was right. he has lost one screw out of an SPD cleat. I saw this happen with another rider at the top of Hazzard Trail in Moab. We were able to use a button head water bottle cage screw in Moab, but no one on this ride had one. Worse that that, I would have sworn I put a spare screw in my tool kit but it was not there. Back to Dave's house where he pulled a screw out of his garage tool box and we were off again with a late start.

An hour and a half later, we topped out on Sawmill Saddle.

The beginning of the dirt climb.

On the way up to the saddle, we rode past quite a few patches of snow and ice and the temps dropped from the high 50s to the high 40s with the wind chill. I was wearing that Merino wool Salsa EWR jersey that GNAT sent me this year and it just rocks for temp changes like this. It does a great job of breathing, buffering the wind, and never feels clammy on the skin when wet with sweat. Wool is the real deal.

From here, we turned north and climbed more fireroad in search of an obscure section of trail that connected with another more familiar singletrack. We found it, and the real work began. Brushy, narrow, and with a rut down the middle of the sandy soil, it made for slow going.

Yes, there is a trail in there somewhere.

The views were sweet...when we actually could see around us more than a few feet at a time.

I was running some new tires on the Epic, something a bit better suited for trail riding in poor conditions. I had a WTB Wolverine 2.2 front and a Captain Control 2.2 rear. I could not have asked for a better set of trail tires for this day. Even if they are heavier then the stock 2.0 Captain/Fasttrak rubber, they are a real step up in flotation and traction. the Wolverine is fast becoming my fav front tire. It just seems to do no wrong (other than needing a bit of a diet).

Epic with Wolverine 2.2 front tire.Link

We peaked out on Liebre Mtn and ran into about 20 motos up there that had just ridden up the Golden Eagle trail. Great! Well, we shall see how they treated the trail surface, and, as it turned out, they did not hurt it much at all. The rain and snow melt had packed the sandy soil into a fabulous combo of swoop and traction. Ed the Tall remarked it was like someone had raked the sand for us. It was about as good as it gets up there. There were sections of snow that required pushing, but the Specialized Defroster shoes remained water tight and warm.

A lighter patch of snow on Golden Eagle Trail, still hiding in the shadows.

Soon enough we broke out into meadow and sunshine and left the snow behind.

Tony the very tired Tiger

The pavement return was all that was left after dropping down the six miles of Golden Eagle singletrack. Ed the Tall decided he would throw down the gauntlet and streaked off the front. Drat. I was managing some leg cramps so I backed off and spun a few miles, keeping the break-away in sight. The cramping went away and I reeled Tony and Mike in near the end. Ed was found sitting happily in a lounge chair back at the trucks looking like he had not even worked hard...I know better.

Great day on the bikes. 35 miles, just under 5 hours. Climbing, pushing, riding, crashing, snow, wind, dirt, pain, scratches, pain, smiles. A bonafied mountain bike ride.

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