Saturday, February 26, 2011

T.R., have I told you lately...

...that I loved your bikes?  But, sadly, it was an unrequited love.  When I began riding MTBs, there were two brands that I remembered as being prized above all:  Ritchey and Fisher.  Gary Fisher was still doing some fillet brazed stuff like the Mt Tam but was moving fast toward outsourcing to TIG'd assembly line frames.  Tom Ritchey's work was the I-Ching of bikes IMO.  The Timbercomp was my dream bike.  I even loved the name.  It sounded like something you would want to just disappear on over the horizon, dashing and dancing through the Aspens.

There was a local guy that was the Ritchey 'dealer' and he would do these CRAZY big rides back then...50 to 100 milers when we could barely ride ten miles.  He was a small 'g' god.  Even the production P23s and P21s were very cool, even though they were a bit racing focused for me.

But now we have this:  The Ritchey P-29.  Oh baby.


There is a lot of controversy right now on an MTBR thread on just how pure and authentic this is since it will be made on some assembly line instead of being birthed by hand by Tom Ritchey hisself.  Bah.  TIG is just fine.  Brazing is nice for artisans and allows for some give and take in tubing spec, but really it is not an issue.  If Tom actually designed the tubing, and the P-29 is not the realization of some quirky idea that 29ers need to be sporting some super steep and quick handling geo, etc, then this thing will be at the top of my wish list for a steel hardtail.

Why?
  • Well, for one it is just drop dead gorgeous.  Some bikes just look right.  Some do not.  No odd bent top tubes like some broken backed camel, no weird angles or twisted sister tubes...just pure triangles of graceful steel.
  • I hope that TR, at this point in time, is not just a bandwagon jumper for the 29er parade.  If he has been on big wheels (and I think he is a pretty tall guy), then I have to believe that he knows how to do it up right.  He sure has the pedigree.  I learned more about bike/frame design in 30 minutes of talking with Joe Breeze then I had learned in years of hanging around other folks.  These guys know what is going on down there and why.
  • Pure emotion.  I love the fade color.  Man, that just takes me back.  And somewhere in the back alleys of my psyche is a signpost that says "Ritchey Parking Only.  All Others Will Be Judged Accordingly."

I will never have a Timbercomp, but the dream just got a bit of a B-12 vitamin shot just seeing the P-29.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Gabriel, come blow your horn.

With apologies to angels everywhere....


It all started with a heroic pic shot by JeffJ of a local buddy on a ride recently.  It began like this...


...and ended like this. Voila'.  The god-like (little 'g') pose deserved some, ahhh...inspired photochopping to reveal the Hermes within.  In Photoshop, just select the layer and apply the 'Reveal Deity' filter.  Eezy-peezy.


Now, as seen through the skilled lens of JeffJ, the Ansel Adams of the 29er world, I bring you the next revelation in 'more than meets the eye' photography.

First, you strike a pose....


...then select the layer and apply the 'heavenly vision' filter. 


Huh.  Who would have known?

This is what you do when it is raining and looking like snow in So Cal.  Hey, it is better than Oprah!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Memory Lane.

A pic of my first sweetie...no not the wife...the first MTB....a Nishiki Cascade circa late 80s, I think?  Saw this posted on a forum and it sure brought back memories.  Mine had Bullmoose bar copies and I think roller cam brakes F/R with no chrome fork, but the odd three-pulley SunTour rear der is there and the frame color is right.


The bike shop sold me the wrong size (a 23") so standover was horrible, but I had a blast anyway.  I had it a year or so and then upgraded to a Schwinn Paramountain frameset and custom build.  I have no idea what I did with that Nishiki.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The wrong gear for every occasion?

I am thinkin' again and it is likely to lead me to an odd place.  I actually rode my road bike this weekend.  It is a bike that most of the time languishes in the rafters on hooks, but every so often, it gets rolled out when enough time has gone by and I have forgotten how much I dislike riding it.

I really can't blame the bike too much, it is just a few parts and some set-up issues that I do not like, but it is a buzz kill for me.  The frame is actually pretty sweet.  It is a hand built steel bike, all mini brazed by Curtlo Cycles, and is a mix of RC2 True Temper tubing with an MTB OX-3 TT for a down tube.  I figure it was built in the mid 90s.  It is parallel 73*, 59cm square, with an aluminum SR Prism fork.  I bet it does not have 1000 miles on it.  Maybe not even 500.  It actually is a very nice riding bike and it just over 20 pounds.

But the parts are killin' me, mostly the shifting and the cockpit.  It has bar end shifters and 7 speeds with a Shimano 600 front crank.  That is fine....I like bar end shifters well enough I guess, but I had the wheels built with some cool Bullseye hubs that were left over from my first custom MTB wheelset, pre-Shimano Hyperglide, as I had the hubs just laying around.  The hubs are light and smooth, but the rear hub takes a thread-on freewheel and the Sachs/Aris 7 speed never indexed right with the Shimano shifters.  It sucks.  The H-Bars have a crazy amount of forward bend and hardly any flat up top, so I look like I am time trialing all the time...the hoods are almost useless as a place to rest your hands.  Not helping this is a stem that is likely 1.5" too long.

And every so often (every time I ride it, about 15 minutes into the ride) I think about upgrading some parts, but the cost of a new rear hub/wheel, the shifters, at least a rear der, maybe a front too, then getting a stem for that old, threaded 1" steerer and new bars....well, it just seems so expensive for something I am not sure how much I will use.  Would I be better off just grabbing a new, close-out road bike?  Maybe carbon?  No soul there, but lots of zip.  Ah, I don't know?  I really like the classy old girl at heart...steel is pretty nice, especially a good custom one.

SO...here I am thinking about all this and, as I stood out of the saddle, pedaling that 39/23 gear that the 7spd allows for, up a long uphill grade, it kinda came to me.  How hard would it be to singlespeed this bike?  Do people even RIDE SS road bikes besides fixie hipsters?  Maybe.  But it is NOT flat here.  Quite the contrary.  But I have come to love the SS off road.  I wonder if it would be the same on road?

Or, as Guitar Ted remarked, "It would have the wrong gear for every occasion".  Yeah, that could happen too.

But it would solve some things for me.  It would be cheap to do.  An ACS freewheel is 20 bucks.  The bars I can handle...and a new stem...well, there are adapters to get a quill type stem to convert to a threadless version so I can use things I have sitting around.  I have shims if need be.

It might be fun.  Well it WOULD be fun, I am sure, but would it be practical?  Maybe not for group rides where I would get dropped on the flats or the fast runs out of the canyons.  But it could be VERY cool for long, solo or coup'la buddies-type training rides.

Of course, I may find that it simply will not work with the hardware I have.  Not sure yet.  If so, I will likely hang it back up and let it sit there another few months till I forget again why I hate it and wheel it out one more time.  Insanity has been described as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  That applies nicely to my road bike and I.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Lead to where, exactly?

I was recently alerted to a 'think piece' (not sure if it is an editorial as it is not credited) in the April 2011 issue of Mountain Bike Action magazine, page 20, (may not be on the stands yet) that is titled "Lead Instead of Follow".  I will not try to copy all the text here, but I have to comment on what I think is a poorly thought-out and misguided proposal.

The basic idea is that, due to the great strides made in technology on MTBs, and specifically the longer travel 'downhill' bikes, it has allowed them to be ridden beyond the typical trail conditions that the average MTB can handle.  This has encouraged illegal trail cutting on public lands in order to keep the thrill level up, being that the typical user friendly trail is "not fun to ride" on a DH (Downhill Bike).  So, in order to police ourselves, we should allow enlightened individuals to decide what just exactly a DH bike is and then mandate that a head tube badge or label be affixed on the bike to declare it fit only for racing courses or dedicated DH trails.  We are urged to do this before the guv'mint does it for us.

Seriously?

I want to touch on a few specific points and respond.

  • Certainly technology has enabled bicycles to be ridden in terrain that is far beyond what would have been survivable (or practical at least) just a few years ago.   I can see how that type of capability can lead one to look 'off course' for terrain that gives the rider an adrenaline shot.  That happened when the typical Jeep 4x4 trail rig grew into a tube chassis rock buggy and drivers were emulating the comp guys on public lands.  
  • The article makes a statement that the issue arising from this is not user conflicts on multi-use trails (as DH bikes are not ridden there...too boring basically), but rather it is individuals creating new and un-authorized trails that give them a hard-core experience.  In response to this trail building, land managers will react by closing trails to all MTBs regardless of the type of bike it is.
  • So it is upon our shoulders to label these 'type' of bikes appropriately so that they will be...well, not sure exactly...labeled as for competition only or for dedicated DH trails only, etc.
  • This will keep the government from making those decisions for us.
There is more, but that is the gist of it.  So let me think about this a bit.  For certain, technology has leapt forward to where the modern MTB has great brakes, suspension, tires, etc, and is strong and amazing in what it can do in the hands of a good rider.  But just how do you decide what is a DH bike for Comp only?  Is it bigger brakes than 'normal'?  Bigger tires than 'normal'?  Slacker angles, slammed saddle, shorter stems, wider bars?  Is it 6" of travel?  7"?  8"?  I have seen guys riding terrain on a hardtail with a stout fork that I could not ride on a Knolly big bike.  Is that a DH bike now, a HT with a 120mm fork and beefy rims?  Is it what it can do or what it 'is'?

The author suggests that the govt cannot be trusted to accurately label a DH bike, nor can the manufacturer or the Land Access agency (IMBA, etc).  Rather, it should be judged by a jury of its peers; folks who show up for trail building sessions and grassroots MTB efforts.  Well, I am qualified then, based on my past experience, to label your DH bike as not suitable for public use on open trails.  Do you want me doing that?  My "definition and identification" of what is a DH bike would not agree with others just as qualified.  I guarantee it.  Who decides who is on that panel of Illuminati?  What standards do they use?  I have to disagree with the statement in the text that it would be a "not too difficult task".  Pretty grey area.

Who enforces this new exclusionary ruling?  Will there be a ranger standing at the trailhead looking for labels?  Then what?  If 150mm of travel is too much, can I reduce the travel on my fork and be OK to ride?  There is no way to enforce it, and if there was, what is the penalty?  A fine?  What?  Is there a code for this? We have enough rules and laws now that cannot be enforced.  Will you be the one to tell me that I cannot pedal my DH bike down a flat trail with my family just because I want to ride it (even if it is not "fun").  Trust me...somewhere, someone will take this as a 'qualified' reason to keep you off a public land somewhere.  I mean, "can't you read the label, son?"  "Says right there that this bike is only for...yada yada..."

Will the bike makers want to market something that I cannot ride down a normal trail or dirt road, but only on a race course or dedicated trail?  How many riders live near one of those?  Who can make them put the badge on the bike when it rolls of the factory floor?  Congress?  Can a dealer sell one and be held responsible for it being improperly used?

A label like this only benefits the lawyers.  Think that some trial lawyer would not love to represent the 'victim' of a multi-use trail user conflict that was harmed at the hands of a rider on a bike labeled 'for competition only or dedicated DH trails"?  Oh yeah.  Payday.

So then we are expected to believe that land managers will respond to all this 'responsible thinking' on our parts and rise up to build us dedicated DH trails.  Create a need and fill it, I suppose.  What a vision.  I am skeptical.  The bikes already exist.  The trails do not, for the most part.  A label will not change that as far as I can see any more than labeling a street motorcycle the same way would result in road courses being paved in the town near you.

"What is the alternative?", it asks in the end of the article?  Well, as always, it just comes down to responsible behavior.  That, common sense, and courtesy.  And you cannot legislate that. 

We have too many labels already.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Redemption.

Saturday's ride was all about redemption.  The last Ramble Ride darn near destroyed me, both physically and emotionally.  The two rides during the week that followed were uninspiring to say the least.  To say the most, it had me wondering if the party was over.  As you get older, you wonder when the bell will ring signaling the call to take up the walker.  I wonder what a 29er walker looks like?  I bet the bigger wheels are better on sidewalk cracks.

Even Senior citizens like big wheels.

Well, maybe not quite that, but an aching back, lead legs, and pretty much zilch for zip had me wondering.

So this Sat's ride was a bit of the known and some unknown as I was scouting out the next Ramble Ride.  The first loop is a 20 mile section of the forest that climbs for 10 miles on a mix of fireroad and singletrack and it is not an easy putt.  It is one of my favorite rides, but it tests you.  I have several bikes I could pick from at the moment, but I chose the steel singlespeed that I am testing.  Why?  Well, for one, I have yet to spend quality time with it.  This ride absolutely is all that and more.  For another, I love riding my SS and this one is my favorite yet.  And finally, it would be harder that way.  I had something to prove to myself, I guess.

I needed to know whether or not I should be walker shopping. 

And, I am happy to report, I can postpone my walker for another day.  I felt strong all day and rode like the hills did not matter.  I restored my faith in my abilities and proved once again that I absolutely love riding a singlespeed 29er, especially a steel one. 

So here is a toast to long climbs, narrow, acorn covered singletracks, simple steel bikes, and one gear.  And lift your glass a second time to postponing the inevitable...keeping the walker at bay for a little bit longer.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

More carbon fiber thoughts: Going Above and Beyond

So, if you have a material and a way of using it that can bring tremendous creative and engineering choices to the table...such as unique shapes, fiber alignments, 'butting' or wall thickness profiles, 'tuned' ride characteristics, etc...at a level that is very difficult with a metal construction, why just stop at a frame that is normal in every way but the weight to strength ratio?

That thought came to mind as I was riding the CF Breezer Cloud 9 Pro that is on test at 29".com.  It is light, it is quite stiff laterally, it rides reasonably well, and seems to do what it was intended to do.  But can it be more?  It is, after all, just a hardtail.

Look at this bike for instance:  The Chiru Pulse 29er CF HT being talked about here.


Copied from TNI.com -

"Chiru Bikes founder, Pierre Arnaud, tells us that “The specifics of a Chiru bike is Comfort, Power transfer, and Reliability. We have specifically worked on the comfort of the PULSE, the seat stays design enables to filter high frequency vibrations from rugged trails.” Here are some bullet points on the frame….
-Asymetrical chain stay for optimum power transfer
-Carboflex 50 seat stay for high frequency vibration filtering.
-Multistandard bottom Bracket- (Fits 68 mm Bottom Bracket, fits GXP, BB30, PRESS FIT, Excentric BB for single speed)
-Tapered Headset compatible
-Handle bar protection plate
-Anti derailling device (This device is under development, the eyelet to fit it can be seen on the down tube )"
 
What caught my eye was the seatstay design and the goal of tuning the ride to be absorbent beyond a normal HT bike.  Will it succeed?  I don't know, but I applaud the attempt.  It seems to me that with all the lauded bennies of CF that exploring this type of compliant 'tuned ride' is well worth the trouble.

When you hear someone say that a frame rides well or is compliant...what that means is, while some materials do not transfer high freq vibrations and have natural 'damping' qualities, CF being that material (although it also makes it feel a bit wooden and dead...hence the lively ride of steel, etc), compliance is flex.  The frame is 'giving' in response to some force acting upon it. 

There is good flex and bad flex.  Bad flex is a frame that will not hold a line or cannot keep the wheels in line under hard riding.  That sucks up energy and handles poorly.  But good flex can make a bike feel like a living thing on the trail, something that well made steel bikes have in spades.  SO the trick is having the right amount of flex...or...the right KIND of flex to get the result you want.

The Giant alu HT I have IMO rides a bit softer than the CF Breezer...it is a small difference, but it is there.  That is nice to sit on.  But I can get that rear end on that alu frame to twist like Chubby Checker, and not in a good way.  The price paid?  Likely so.   That steel SS I am on trumps them all...it is just smoove...but it is heavier than the CF frame by 3lbs.  That is a lot of grams.  And it pedals quite well, but not at the level that the CF frame does.

Truth be told, a well designed, round, butted tube is pretty hard to beat all around, but it sure seems that it is no match for the complex shapes and profiles of CF frames.  So when I see something like this Chiru, it makes me think that CF has hopes of going beyond just being lighter and stronger and stiffer, but actually noticeably smoother and lighter and stiffer and stronger too.

I want it all.  But can I have it my way with a CF bike, or is that just limited to Burger King?

"hold the pickles, hold the lettuce..."

I still think that at some point, the ultimate soft tail will come out of this that will give me all that I want and I think that design will finally be made the better mousetrap because of CF and what it can do.  But until then, I wonder if Chiru is on the path to the better "firm tail"?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Is Carbon Fiber the answer?

And if so, what are the questions?

I have been a bit of a CF (carbon fiber) skeptic, based mostly on past performance and some recent performance of one brand of bike in particular.  But a recent conversation with a bike company owner that is making inroads into CF frames and components was interesting in the absolute statements in the discussion.  He said that a well built CF frame will last waaaay past the life span of an alu frame of the same type.  Not just as good or maybe as good, but speaking to failure related to fatigue cycles...and that is the typical killer of alu frames...CF was so far beyond that as to be impossible to break due to just pedaling it to death.  Basically, the thought here is that it is beyond the ability of a human powered motor to ride it long enough and hard enough to get beyond the fatigue failure point.  Then we looked at a new CF handlebar they have coming to market and he said basically that the CF bar was so much stronger than the alu version that it was just off the charts....lighter, too.

Now taking crash damage out of the equation, that is a pretty strong statement and came as a response to my musing that I like a metal frame because I tend to keep my bikes a long time.  The reply was, in that case, that CF is the material of choice for guys like me too and not just a one season, race day frame.

Now, like any material that bike frames are made from, the devil is in the details.  Just because it is glue and cloth stuck together does not make it Kryptonite.  His comment was assuming a well engineered and well built frame that did not try to be the lightest and/or cheapest thing out there on the market.  If there is any one of the materials that require intense QC, it is CF.  They all look good on the outside, but the insides are where it all comes together.  The way the bladder works to keep wall thickness and shape correct, the quality and alignment/layering of the cloth, the heat applied, etc. And I am a complete novice and may have not gotten even the terms right, but just about anyone can pick up a dozen sticks of steel and get a reliable steel frame.  Even alu is easy.  Just keep it to thick pieces of tubes, stick it in an oven, and it will do fine, pretty much.  Ti is a bit trickier.

So there really seems to be a minimum standard here.  Remember the old adage:  "Light, Cheap, Strong...pick two."?  That really seems to apply to CF over any other material.  It sure can be light.  I am riding a CF Breezer 29er HT in an XL size and the frame weight is purported to be 2.5lbs.  Wow!  It also pedals like nothing else I have ridden that was not CF.  According to the previously mentioned bike company owner (and others), it sure can be strong, if they are to be believed.  I was talking to a buddy that works for Ibis Cycles and I asked him how CF has been for them as far as warranty or failure on the well liked Mojo and Tranny bikes.  He just flat out said it is not an issue and they rarely see a failure, even under very hard riding conditions.  Sure, stuff breaks, but they have no more and likely fewer issues than if they were making alu versions.  Their frames are not cheap, but they are lasting and lasting.

Another thing I hear from product mangers is how CF will never get that much cheaper due to the high level of labor and time involved in making it.  It is easy to pop out thousands of expanded 'beer can' alu frames one right after another and robot weld them in fixtures.  CF is hand made for the most part.  And, since I want my CF to last and NOT break, I am sure looking for a builder who had someone perform the due diligence of proper engineering and QC all along the creative process.  I also assume that all that QC attention takes time and money. That leads me back to the adage of "...pick two".

Most of the CF is coming out of China.   And now, direct to the consumer from the manufacturer, are CF frames that are are light and cheap...really cheap.  Some of that cheap is from eliminating the middle man...I get that, but ya gotta wonder who is looking out for the end user here?  Ibis is looking out for the Ibis bike buyer.  Niner is looking out for the Niner bike buyer...Specialized, Giant, Breezer, etc.  Who is looking out for you from the China-Direct factory?  Will they answer the phone, and if so, what would you say?  Can you talk to the product manger?  Scary?  Maybe so.  Time will tell.

However, if the cheapy CF frames do hit all three of the points in that adage, then watch the big dog's prices fall on CF frames.  They will have to just to keep the informed enthusiast on board.

But, I digress.  I still love my steel SS.  It is not costly, it is smooth riding, fun, and will last for years.  But this new CF frame I am on is impressive.  It rides very well, not quite like the steely, but not harsh at all.  It is at LEAST 2 lbs lighter.  That is a lot.  It pedals like nothing in steel can do, IMO.  Crazy responsive and just rock solid at the BB.  It has shapes that can be tweaked to get just what the designer wants in the way of performance.  And, as long as I do not punch a rock through a tube or chain suck it to death, it may outlive me.  I bet it will outlast the alu HT frame I have 10-1 based on the amount of flex in the alu frame I see and it is probably lighter still.  Flex kills alu.

Crazy.  And hard to ignore.  I already would prefer a good CF h-bar.  I trust them.  I sure see the bennies of a CF frame (I can't imagine racing anything else but CF) and a may yet come to trust them.

So, I still have questions.  But more and more, CF is providing the answers.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sunday, February 6, 2011

San Fran Ramble post mortem.

Sat was a stunning day in February.  It was the kind of weather that 3/4s of the US would like to have but does not.  And on that note, 11 brave souls struck out for the 2nd Ramble Ride, the San Fran Ramble, so named for the way it criss-crossed San Francisquito Cyn.  We staged out of Castaic.

JeffJ gearing-up.  It was a clyde friendly day.
My ride for the day...the Breezer Cloud 9 carbon 29er.

I was uncertain of the exact mileage, but I expected it to be over 30 and under 40.  I got that right...barely...sort of.  I also figured on 4-5 hours to complete.  Missed that pretty much completely, but it was a friendly pace.  I like to make Ramble Rides 'no-drop' events if possible.  The route began on the local backyard trails and roads and kept climbing for another 6 miles or so on fireroad.  That was a bit of an energy sucker as it dropped nearly as much as it gained and by the time we found our connector road to the next section, we had lost 3 riders to time constraints.

And then there were 8.

Typical So Cal ridgeline fireroad.
  A bit of pavement brought us to the next climb.  This bit of uphill was made easier by the paved surface and is a Dept of Water and Power access road.  It climbs above the site of the St Francis Dam disaster, one of the worst calamities on California history.  We were a good couple of hours into the day at this point and about a third of the way along.

Road work.

Gates in So Cal have a hard life.
At the top, we re-grouped at a small reservoir.  Everyone was still feeling pretty good, myself included, so the pace was moderate and conversation was happy.  One cool surprise was the appearance of KT the Man, and old friend and super MTB rider.  He was the pace leader for the day.

The Magnificent 7...KT the Man makes 8>>>
KT the Man is also a scoff law.  Caught in the act.
A few more miles of easy climbing into a wide valley brought us to the high point of the day and let us enjoy a motorcycle built singletrack that rolled and dipped across whoopdies and loose rock, taking us back parallel to the way we had entered.  That connected to one more section of singletrack, this one even better. It followed a ridge line and was quite fast and narrow, having taken the shape of a tiny bobsled run from years of moto use.  It really was the best part of the ride, fun wise.

JeffJ, grinning and riding.
Sometimes you really did not want to turn right.  On the edge of a biiig drop.

I was noticing that I was beginning to feel a bit tired here.  My back was getting a bit beat up from the hardtail and a very stiff seatpost.  I was out of any kind of performance drink, so I was running on just water and Elete.  Some of the group was running strong though.  I had always wondered how Kevin did it...he always looks good, always is fast, and seems, well, more than a mere mortal.  Then, as we were watching, something amazing happened.  Jeff was taking some pics as Kevin took a classic Greek pose. 

Looking very manly, but....
Then...it happened.  The clouds swirled in.  The sky darkened a bit and the true nature of the man was revealed.  Behold, Hermes the winged messenger of the gods.  Ahhhh...that explains a lot.  Kevin has a new name.

The truth is revealed.
At this point, KT the Man took us a bit off the intended path.  I asked him if he was sure that this trail converged to the main road.  "I am positively sure", said he.  He has such a trusting face.  How could I say no?

You know how sometimes you just know you are going the wrong way?  Yep.  But why does it always seem that you go the wrong way downhill!  This was a fun hill to go down.  Not so fun to go back up.

What goes down in error, sometimes goes right back up in misery.
Back in town, and back on the right path, we stopped off to re-supply at a stop-and-snack.  We were about 36 miles into it by now and had been going for over 4 hours.  JeffJ was having back issues and called for the SAG wagon.  I was not much better, having been beaten into submission by the Marquis De Sade seatpost and CF hardtail.  We pretty much took over the front of the store.  Sorry about that.

Still bravely smilin'.  The worst was yet to come.


From here, we hit a couple of miles of pavement and then turned off onto a dirt road that I knew existed, but had never been on.  It connected to the local trail network we began the day on.  I don't know what the bulldozer driver had in mind when he graded this road, but it was not providing a gentle grade for tired mountain bikers.  Man, it had me off the bike and pushing.  It was then I knew I was failing slowly but surely.  I was out of gas, flat...broken...frammeled.  My back muscles were completely peeved at me and even pushing was difficult.  I was even fighting leg cramps, something that hardly ever happens anymore.  I was very glad to have a 22/36 on this bike.  A 20/38 would have been nice. 

Finally I made it to the singletracks that we began on, but I was in so much pain, I could barely navigate the creekbed.  Every bump shot arrows through my back and I was whining like a little girl.

Finally we were back with right at 40 miles and 5 3/4 hours under our belts.  I made a couple of errors.  I have not been on any longer rides lately, mostly just after work night stuff....nothing over 3 hours.  I was thinking I could get by with basically just water and electrolytes and I really do run better on some kind of performance drink like Carborocket.  I also underestimated that last bit of ridiculously steep trail by the water tank...the Trail of Tears...The Bataan Death March...Armageddon.

Well, OK, I am sure with fresh legs it ain't no biggie, but I was waaaaay past fresh.  I was firmly on the day-old rack like a bit of stale bagels.  KT the Man rode up it like it was flat.  He rocks.  Even Hermes pushed.  I guess having wings on your helmet is not all that it is cracked up to be, huh big guy?

It was a great day on the bikes, the company was stellar...not one whiner among them...and the trails were just for us to enjoy.  We never saw another soul once we left the local loop.

What is next?  Not sure, but I am enjoying the Ramble Ride idea.  I guess it is time to get out the maps and plan Ramble #3.