Saturday, November 22, 2008

Rice Krispy Bar Ride

I had really hoped to get on snow somewhere with skis today. Readers had made some great suggestions. Gas is dirt cheap again, but I'm not willing to drive 5-6hrs to find groomed snow.

I called Trapp on Friday. Although they've been blowing snow most of the week, they don't plan to groom until Thanksgiving. Then I got my hopes up for Waterville this morning. No, they don't make snow on the XC trails. They were supposed to open with top to bottom runs on the alpine side of the valley, but high winds kept the lifts shut down. I thought perfect. I have to go to the alpine village anyway to pick up my Nordic season pass. I'll just skate a couple runs while the lifts are down. But the runs they had ready to go are very steep. They weren't opening the long, gradual Valley Trail yet. Basically all I had to work with were blue trails right up the fall line. Given the temp was +11F and the wind chill scary below zero, I would have fought not only Mr Gravity, but Mr Friction too. With my cardio fitness, I'm sure I would have shredded my body to bits skating in those conditions first time out. Wachusett was opening too, but with just a couple runs open with massive numbers of punk boarders, it would have been suicide to skate up one of those skinny trails. I know skaters that go there pre-hours and do fine. I opted to ride today instead.

From Wachusett summit, Boston skyline out there somewhere

I hadn't been to Leominster State Forest in a while. Wachusett is right there, and I always TT up it as part of my warm-up routine. Today I got a little more than I bargained for. Princeton sits higher than us folk in the greater Boston area. It was cold there, never getting out of the low 20's. Add 40mph winds, and you have a perfect day to stay in the woods as much as possible. Traffic to Wachusett was heavy. It was a steady stream of snow boards. Riding up Mountain Road, the surface changed from new asphalt to heavy sand covered. The snow making blows across here and the road becomes a death trap without constant winter maintenance. So much for rollerskiing up this over the next couple weekends.

Standard fare for LSF. Leaves were laden with frost.

I knew I would have to cross a couple ski runs with deep machine made snow. The first two were miserable. The snow was piled about 10ft high. It was firm enough to walk on without post holing. But they had the snow guns blasting at very high volume. They were spewing semi-frozen slush. With temp probably in the teens up here, the slurry instantly froze on contact. I had to cross two runs like this. After crossing the second one, my bike and body were completely covered with over an eighth inch of ice. It did not brush off either. I could not read or use the buttons on my Garmin 705. It was that thick.

One of the trickier bits that always used to weird me out

It was so windy up top it was hard to stand in one spot without having to catch yourself. You could see the Boston skyline on this brilliant day. The climb turned out to be the easy part. The windchill up here was no doubt well below zero. My initial descent was straight into the wind. Talk about an icecream headache! Instead of taking the "up" road all the way back, I took a left where there is normally a closed gate. A second left took me down a gravel fire road. Wish I had known about this before battling the ice storm. I had to really keep an eye on the Camelback. It would freeze in an instant if I left any liquid in the tube.

Leominster is the rockiest place I ride. Most of the trails are non-stop baby-head action. Throw in 6" of oak leaves with frost layered up between them, you have yourself a real test of skill (or temperament if you suck). I lie somewhere in between, and I managed to not keep telling myself "you suck!" while dabbing at least once a minute. Many trails were like riding on Rice Krispy bars, if you can imagine what that would be like. The ground was super saturated with moisture before it froze. When it did, it heaved up in a delicately crunchy ice cushion. Without warning, your tires could crunch in 2-4", almost stopping you dead. This required a very defensive riding posture and made for hard work on some trails.

Rocky Pond. Should've brought the ice skates. Looked 3" thick and crystal clear.

The tires on my new Titus suck. They are Bontrager XDX's. They have no lateral hook-up whatsoever. I kept dropping the pressure. The tires seem to have very stiff sidewalls and do not conform well around off-camber rocks and roots. I let air out of these tubeless wonders until they were ridiculously soft. They started to hook up. Later when I hit some pavement, I was sure I had two flat tires. The bike was uber squirrely turning hard. I checked the pressure when I got home: 19psi front, 22psi rear. Too low, a sure recipe for burping, and any rolling resistance advantage they claim is totally defeated running this soft. Maybe I have to order another set of the Panaracer Fire XC Pro's, the best all around tire ever designed.

Crow Hill over Crow Hill Pond

I narrowly escaped unscathed riding most of the singletrack in the forest. I did my normal full loop and never saw another person in the woods. The perennial muddy sections were frozen solid. I was a little bit disappointed when I ran out of trails to ride. I wasn't ready to quit. I logged 30.0 miles, 3885ft of climbing, in 3.1hrs riding time.

Oh, I had my first cup of Clover machine coffee this morning. It was one of the best purchased cups of coffee I ever had. Starbucks bought the company that produces these wonders. That infuriated many coffee aficionados. It was the one weapon small independent coffee shops had doing battle against giants like Starbucks. The fear now is Starbucks owns the company and may chose to not sell them to anybody else. Is a Grande cup of Clover machine coffee worth $3-4? Maybe once in a while.


Dave said...

Slippery too at Catherine Furnace in VA . Wet slushy leaves, ice, and rocks oh my. Did a 20 sumthin mile ride with the MORE folks. Got a lump on my thigh from a crash on the snow dusted rocks. I think I will stick to lower elevations until spring, except for road rides. I HATE low traction riding!

Hill Junkie said...

I hear ya. It is one of the reasons I don't do more cyclocross. It seems CX'ers really get off on the goo factor. The muddier, slicker, the more carnage, the better. I do enjoy winter riding with studs though. In the right conditions, some trails are actually faster in the winter when all the rocks and mud bogs are covered with hard packed snow.