Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bike? What bike?

I haven't been on a bike four days in a row now, I bet a record long bikeless streak this year. Bike miles have been replaced with ski kilometers. Conditions have been all over the spectrum.  Sunday in Michigan, the snow was deep but glide silky smooth. Then Monday rain mixed in with more new snow and became as sticky as peanut butter. Tuesday was a travel/rest day. Then it was back to Waterville Valley on Wednesday. Some snow fell there after the big thaw. Then the temperature plummeted in a big way.

Last night when I got home, I checked out the weather. The wind was blowing my tiny xD all over the road from Buffalo to Pelham. I couldn't pump gas fast enough on the New York Thruway to avoid losing all feeling in my hand holding the pump handle. Silly below zero windchills. I pulled up the Mt Washington Observatory website to get a glimpse just how crazy cold it can get in Cow Hampshire. The image below says it all. The wind chill was holding steady more than 70F below zero with wind gusting to over 100mph.

It wasn't that cold at Waterville this morning, but dang cold none the less. We skier types can handle this. It's the snow that sucks. New snow that hasn't had a chance to get worked over when it is that cold is about a much fun to skate ski on as Hampton Beech in July. A lot of work pays miniscule dividends.

DaveP and I hit the north end, starting on Livermore Rd. Cascade Brook trail is now open to Junction 29. This means both 800ft climbs are open for business. Coming back down, we passed the Freeman brothers heading up. I grabbed my water at the bottom, then went back for a repeat. Kris and Justin came by at about 40mph on Cascade Brook as Dave and I climbed. Hitting Cascade twice pretty near killed Dave and I.

You know how kids, when they get a new toy at Christmas, they can't stop playing with it? I'm kind of like that with V2 technique right now. It took me several seasons to figure it out. Last season I got it sorted out, and this season I'm refining it. I V2 everywhere I can, even sometimes when it is not the appropriate technique. V2ing all the way up Livermore on sandpaper snow sent my triceps into a tizzy today. I'm continuously testing the limits of newly acquired balance skills. I haven't crashed myself yet this season by overcommitting to a ski, but close. The coolest thing I'm discovering this season is a sweet spot with V2 technique that feels very efficient, where kilojoule expenditure is minimized for a given speed. I have not noticed this before, and no doubt if I can expand this sweet spot to other techniques and greater variety of terrain, I will do much better in ski marathons. This season I aspire to suck less.

We next crossed over to do Tripoli Rd next, the other 800ft climb. The snow was even more abrasive there. I waxed with Swix green, and Dave didn't rewax since last skiing here with blue. I think I had a glide advantage starting out, but abrasive snow like this quickly turns the ski base white. Tripoli was brutal. Kris and Justin were heading down while we climbed. We caught up to their dad, Donovan, up top. He commented the boys were doing their final tune-up ski before Nationals in Anchorage starting this weekend.

I got the biggest ice cream headache ever coming down Tripoli. The temp was surely in the single digits up top, and my eyebrows were exposed and soaking wet with sweat. At speeds of 20-30mph on the steeper parts, any exposed skin stings. Once we hit the bottom, Dave and I decided to do a cool-down lap around Moose Run/Wicked Easy and call it a day. 40km in 2.8hrs with 2800ft of climbing. A slow day indeed, but a cardio workout you could never achieve on a bike, trainer or rollers this time of year.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Lake effect snow, quirky stuff it is

Yesterday I was bitchin' about not having skiable snow. Along the lakeshore, 12hrs can make a world of difference. I did not anticipate skiing today. When I awoke, there was about 6" of new snow outside. Just to the north got over a foot. Both local skiing options were claiming groomed skiing. Hmm, the place 30 minutes away got less snow and I wondered if it was enough. The place an hour away got a foot and I wondered if it was too much. Both places groom with snowmobiles. A foot of new powder packed by light weight snowmobiles didn't sound like much skating fun. I opted to check out the closer place first.

Snowing three inches per hour at Pigeon Creek

This was Pigeon Creek, a county park that charges nothing to ski the groomed trails. This is fairly common in the midwest actually. As I drove north not far inland from Lake Michigan, the snow depth increased dramatically. Seems some fingers of very intense lake effect had hit the area. Pigeon Creek's snowphone report said they received 4-6", but much more had fallen since earlier in the morning. It looked closer to a foot.

I was dismayed to see they hadn't groomed in some time. Locals rave how Pigeon Creek grooms throughout the day here. The powder was so deep that I couldn't see my skis gliding under it. The good thing was lake effect snow often has good moisture content. Glide was good, despite skiing in ankle deep mashed potatoes. And the snow was still coming down furiously. Brought back horrors from the Rangeley Lakes Loppet a couple years ago.

I did a couple full north and south perimeter loops and swung back by the car to get a drink after an hour. I did not need the weight of a full Camelbak in this mush. I just left the Camelbak on my car and I could skate right up to it.  In an hour, there was already 3" of new snow on my car. Three inches per hour. Not even a snow storm. Just a typical day in West Michigan. The deal was, they weren't coming back out with the roller. After a third perimeter loop, I gave up skiing the less traveled north side. It was just too much work. Couldn't even see my boots gliding through the stuff.

South loop at Pigeon Creek

Pigeon Creek is pretty flat. The biggest hill is 40ft. It has a nice plummet on the back side though. In about 1.5sec, you go over 20mph. It is the Nordic equivalent of the Log Roll at FOMBA.  I did the south loop with this hill seven times. Every time there were two kinds of skiers at this hill. Those at the top with trembling legs dreading going down, and those some portion of the way down digging snow out of their collars and eye sockets. I just tucked it each time. One time at the bottom some little kid said "Wow, that's the fastest one yet!"

Have to put mugshot up so Dave can choke on his Cheerios

I actually got a compliment of sorts from another skate skier. There were only a few of us there among the hords of classic skiers. I was V2ing about 95% of the time, feeling quite good in my balance. This other master skier assumed I had been skiing for many years. I learned to V2 only last season.  I was by far the fastest skier there, but that doesn't say much. Many families with kids. They "get it" at Pigeon Creek too, parents are really good about keeping their children to the side when faster skiers come by.

I skied 2.7hrs, covering only 37.8km. There was 4-5" of new snow on my car when I finished, and the snowmobile was just coming out to roll the trails. Wish I could've skied a few more laps on a packed surface, but I was wicked trashed.  Six hours of rigorous aerobic activity in two days was sweet. Pigeon Creek being close by, I hope to get in a few laps there again Monday morning. Then it's sledding with nephews and nieces in the afternoon.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Mixed bag conditions

Blog interest seems to wane over the holidays, but I thought I'd put something up for the one or two random readers that happen by. Spending some time in Michigan with family for the holidays. Always good to come back. I do like to stay active during this time, as I totally lose the battle on the food front. The best I can do is damage control, try to get out an hour per day to burn maybe a third of the excess calories I take in. The last several years, the weather just hasn't cooperated. This Christmas seems to be particular challenging. There was no local cross country skiing when we arrived. Then it rained for 36hrs all the way up to da U.P. before it got cold again. That killed XC skiing at the two places three hours away. I called the Crystal Mtn Nordic Center this morning. They said the base was too thin to bring the Piston Bully out, and they were advising XC skiers to stay away from the hills. They were essentially boiler plate. To add insult to injury, all the local roads glazed over. That ruled out rollerskiing too. I will go a whole week with no skiing when I should be well into build phase for races coming up. My mom has a treadmill in the basement, but no ski erg. Bummer.

Fort Custer MTB loops, Garmin track

So what about mountain biking? There was still crusty snow left in the woods. It was a bit iffy, plus just because there is minimal snow here doesn't mean there won't be a foot of snow 10 miles away. Lake effect snow is like that. Today the temp was going to stay well below freezing. Perhaps any residual snow will be rock hard. Rather than drive 156 miles each way to XC ski on boiler plate, I decided to chance a trail ride 56 miles away at Fort Custer Rec Area, land adjacent to a National Guard training base. It is my favorite place to ride in Michigan.

The Trenches on the Red loop. I believe these were actually
used for combat training at one time. They weave through the place
and now make great half-pipe material for riding.

I first had to replace my rear tire. I bought new Nokians but hadn't gotten around to swapping them out yet. I was replacing them because the studs and treads are worn down. But to my horror, I discovered the tube was bulging out of the rear tire in multiple places. The side casing was rotten and splitting apart. One split was nearly an inch long. Must be due to running uber low pressure that the thing didn't explode. I went to a local bike shop to pick up the cheapest non-studded knobbie they had, a Bontrager Connection. Felt like really soft rubber with sharp knobs. Might make a good snow tire.

Section of Green trail on far side of lake

Pulling into Fort Custer, I was bumming. There must have been 4" of crusty snow in the woods. Usually that dooms riding. There was one car in the biker parking lot, and just one set of tracks in the light dusting of new snow. The singletrack was actually in superb riding condition. There was enough biker/hiker/skier traffic on it before the rain came, so what was left was hard as pavement in most places yet not icy. It was totally hammerable material. And hammer I did. If I couldn't ski mountains for three hours, I was going to shred singletrack for three hours.

The Red trail with typical dark overcast in W. Michigan

There are four color-coded loops at Fort Custer, Red (10mi), Green (7mi), Blue(6mi) and Yellow (~5mi). Red and Green are the good stuff, narrow singletrack with some mildly challenging features. Blue is wide singletrack around a pair of lakes, Yellow is beginner material on doubletrack. I hit red-green-blue-red-yellow. Red was too much fun to ride just once. Hammered everything. Never saw another rider on the trails but saw a couple getting ready to ride when I came back to the trailhead one time. This was snow riding at it's best, probably the best snow ride I've ever had. I rode 37.8 miles with about 2140 feet of climbing in 3.3 hours. The non-studded rear tire worked amazingly well, although it did slide around a lot on 20mph doubletrack turns with powder over ice. I managed to stay upright the whole time.

This wasn't the only ride I've gotten in this week. En route to Michigan, we stopped in London, Ontario. There's a MTB trail there called the Fanshawe Lake Trail. It is 15 miles of mostly singletrack around the lake just outside of town. Mostly buff stuff that begs for speed, and on a cold, blustery Christmas Eve morning, there were just a few people on it. There was a faint snow coating on it that did not diminish traction whatsoever. Cathy and Aaron chased down some "Canadian Tylonol" in town for my mom while I rode. I was very fortunate to squeeze this ride in. It was my second time riding the loop. The first time was many years ago, and since then some interesting sections have been added with built up stunts. I finished the 15.1 mile ride in 76 minutes, nicely satiated. We only had four more hours on the road to reach west Michigan.

Skinny benchcut on the Fanshawe Lake Trail. Frozen rock hard.

Some snow is moving into the area now, but it doesn't sound like it will be enough to get XC skiing going, and it will certainly be too much for rollerskiing and off-road riding. We're here only a few more days anyway, so hopefully the same rain that came through here doesn't ruin skiing at Waterville.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Say you hate shopping, and you need to head out with your better half for a bunch of things, be it groceries, Christmas shopping, whatever. How do you deaden the senses enough to endure hours of agony? Or maybe you have a family get-together on her side, and you can't stand half of them. Is there a way to soften the hours of suffering without resorting to chemical substances? You betcha! A couple hours of intense cardio work before hand is one of nature's best anesthesias. If you pummel yourself into the ground, you can endure almost anything later in the day. You'd never do this though, right? You'd want to be in your best form for Aunt Wilma or while looking at jewery in the mall with screaming brats running into you.

It seems half of the New England cycling community was up at Waterville Valley this morning. This in spite of scary below zero temperatures to start the day off. It was -3F pulling off I-93, and probably 5 degrees colder than that at the Valley.  The good thing, there was no wind. The bad thing, there was no glide. Teammates Brett and Jody met Dave and I up there.  Rich Brown and Keith Button just happened to show up at the same time. We spotted several other roadies and mountain bikers while skiing. You wonder where "roadie power" comes from? It starts on the snow. Now.

A hard tempo shot up Livermore got the feeling back in our hands. Livermore was a bit thin in places and not groomed this morning. It was pretty hard and less than ideal for control. We then went over to the other side to hit Tripoli. I hit it harder than Wednesday, but was slower than my fourth time up it Wednesday. It wasn't quite as slow as trying to glide up a sand dune, but close in places. We hit Osceola and a lap around Moose Run before coming back to Tripoli for an encore. I had forgotten my Camelbak and was becoming dehydrated. The earlier hard efforts were starting to catch up to me too. Dave was nipping at my heels the whole way up, and it was his first time on any kind of skis this season.

After grabbing water from the car, Dave, Rich and I went back up Livermore. Dave set pace this time, and just like on the bike, proves he is indefatigable on skis too. I might have a 20 minute power advantage, but he dominates the multi-hour power efforts. I wondered why he hit that harder than when we first started out. Guess he didn't want to leave anything in the tank. Some Christmas parties to go to tonight. We skied 42km, 3000ft of climbing, in about 2.7hrs. A solid workout.

So I go to the mall this evening to pick up new lenses for my glasses (prescription changed a bit). I try to avoid the mall this time of year. What a cluster. I had lenses replaced in my everyday glasses and my sport glasses. Well, LensCrafters managed to break my sport frames and the new lenses in my primary glasses don't fit tight. At one point, I thought they were going to charge me for new frames. Had I not fully anesthetized myself this morning, I would have gone ballistic. To make matters worse, we leave for Michigan in a few days, and they told me it could be 10 days to get new frames. I need those glasses on snow. Macular degeneration runs in my family, so I need to take as many precautions as possible.  Then they told me they can't even get replacement frames at all, I would have to pick out new ones and they would have to cut new lenses for them. So now I have to go back to the retail circus again tomorrow.

I found this interesting set of brief reports on winter sports science put together by NBC and the NSF. I haven't watched all of them yet, but I learned a few things I did not know. The one embedded here discusses the cardio demands of XC skiing.

Looks like the Cape and much of southern New England is going to get pounded. Really bums me out about the Cape. I had hoped to bike there on Sunday. If they do get 20", ToT and Otis could be taken off-line for much of this winter. I might be doing more skiing than originally planned. Weston should be on-line when I get back from Michigan.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Perhaps one reader will recognize what this post is about from the title. At the beginning of this year, Alex and I began keeping tabs on our total climbing. I often wondered how much climbing I did in a year. I guess maybe 500,000 vertical feet, but really had no idea. I never tracked it. I did know that my 10 biggest vertical rides last year netted well over 100,000ft. So in January, I began logging my vertical from skiing, riding and hiking. Most of it was measured with a Garmin Edge 705 GPS. Some of it was taken from DeLorme Topo. A small amount was estimated.

You may have read about Mark Weir, the pro mountain biker that took a challenge to climb 1,000,000 feet in a year. He did it in 11 months, mostly on a mountain bike, and got much publicity for it in the bike mags. That seemed like an awful lot, nearly 3000ft per day on average.

For a while, Alex was ahead of me. But things like trips to Hawaii and North Carolina in the spring quickly catapulted me ahead. Then throw in a Colorado trip in August for another spike-up. These can all be spotted in the plot below. Yesterday's ski pushed me above 600,000ft. That means I climbed on average 1700ft per day this year.  Take out rest days, this average approaches 2000ft per day of activity.  I haven't tallied up how much climbing was on dirt, snow or road, other than a quick scan suggests about 62,000ft was on skate skis. Much more than this would have been MTB on dirt. A million feet in a year doesn't seem like a lot anymore. I have no desire to try something like that. The last time I set a silly goal of riding over 10,000 miles in one year, I had abysmal race results. At my age, I've learned quality pays better dividends than quantity.

I won't track my vertical progress next year. I already capture too many details in my training log. In fact, I'll probably delete the HR and power columns in the spreadsheet while I'm at it. It was interesting to track climbing this year. Now I have a baseline by which to compare going forward.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sweet Intensity

For about the last three months, I've been more or less just coasting along in terms of structured training. Zero structured intervals. Cross season is my off season.  In the past, I never had completely cut interval training out of my weekly cycle. I'm not following any kind of plan that says "take three months off from intervals." Can't say I was burned out on intensity. I seem to be burn-out proof in that department. No, I think it was more of just kicking back and enjoying the best fitness of my life for a few months. Did lots of mountain biking. It's not like I completely backed off either. I've done many 3-5hrs rides in the last few months that left me quite depleted.

Enter ski season. I've been training on rollerskis for over a couple months now. At first, it was only an hour a week, then a couple hours per week, rarely with much intensity. Now the snow is here. I have some ski racing goals this winter. "Just coasting along" ain't going to meet my goals. Time to bring some structured intensity back into the training regimen.

Since there is negligible local night skiing right now, I took this morning off to hit Waterville Valley. Of course, I had to do this after the temperature dropped more than 30 degrees from the day before. It was 10F with 30mph winds. Typically, sub-zero windchills really aren't an issue cross country skiing. You generate so much excess heat that risk of frost bite or even discomfort are minimal. What I don't like about skiing in frigid temps is that the snow often has the glide qualities of beech sand.  I pulled into the north end lot just as the Piston Bully finished up the northern half of the north end. Perfect. I finished kitting up and went right for Tripoli Rd. I was the only skier out at the time.

I immediately noticed that glide was not bad at all. In fact, at the bottom, it was quite fast. It appeared the snow dump on Sunday finished with a bit of sleet, and this churned in with snow makes a sugary granular surface that is wonderful to skate ski on. Near the summit of Tripoli Rd at Thornton Gap, the snow was much slower. Apparently the higher elevations didn't get the sleet finish. But it was still good. I hit the 800ft climb aggressively, but not too hard. I wanted to do several repeats.

The descent happens so fast, you really don't have a chance to get cold. Before you know it, you are putting out like 400W for another 20+ minute interval. I repeated this craziness four times. 23-24 minutes from very bottom to summit going up, almost exactly 10 minutes coming back down each time. This scored me over 90 minutes of solid threshold-plus intensity work. I thought about doing a fifth climb, but my fourth one took just a tad longer than my third, so I pulled the plug rather than risk needing an extra recovery day. Instead, I did a couple cool down laps around Moose Run. I finished with 41.4km, 3700ft of climbing, in 2.7hrs on the Garmin. Definitely one of my better workouts this year, on or off the bike. Nothing like a good endorphin buzz in the morning.

Tripoli 4x. For some reason, the GPS track data is missing
for third climb, yet all the lap data is in the lap file. Downward
trend in profile indicates rising barometric pressure.

Workouts like these on snow over the next few months are the basis of road race wins in the spring and hillclimb PR's later in the summer. It's a completely different modality from the bike. Skiing is novel each December when I get back on snow. It's like you can forget about the bike for a while, completely let go even, knowing that your fitness on the bike come spring will be better than if you tried to stay on the bike all winter. And a trainer? F- that. I can't think of anything that would crush my motivation more quickly.

Looking forward to heading back up on Saturday with a posse. Sunday is looking good for a trail ride, possibly Trail of Tears on the Cape.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Snowy Hill Action

Couldn't find any takers to join me at Waterville Valley today. Just as well. I needed to ski at my own pace.  I've managed to bury myself deeply in an overloaded state this week. Trying to maintain some time on the bike while ramping up ski training will do this. I call it double dipping. It seems this happens to me this time of year for the last few years now. About the only thing I give up are the recovery days on the bicycle. Keep the tempo rides, then add liberal dose of tempo and harder ski workouts. I'm feeling pretty good about my base fitness right now. Just need to back down a little this week to capture gains made and not get sick. This type of training pays big dividends come spring, when I tend to score most of my bicycle podium finishes.

Osceola, Tripoli, Livermore 2x

Conditions were surprisingly sweet at Waterville. About 30km were groomed. I picked up season pass and drove to north end parking lot. Warmed up on Moose Run/Wicked Easy. A few ankle biters were poking through in the usual early season spots. Next up was the Osceola climb. It was perfect. I was not perfect. Nothing like a good climb to perk up the legs, though. What, climbs don't motivate you when you are firing on about 3 of 8 cylinders? I felt much better after coming down Osceola. The crown jewel of Waterville climbs was next, Tripoli Rd. It gains 800ft and was flawlessly groomed. Looked like only two skaters had been up so far. No benchmark time-trail today. It took me about 20 minutes to climb it. I hope to break 17 minutes on a good day this season. Came close last season.

Now my legs didn't feel very perked up. I've done five repeats up Tripoli before, and I think just one was going to be it today. I crossed back over to the parking lot, picked up my Camelbak, then headed up Livermore Rd for some technique work. The first time up I focused on good V2 form, trying to maximize glide on each leg on the flatter parts. The second time up I left the poles at the bottom. Livermore Rd is a perfect no-poles climb, very similar to Oak Hill on the Littleton rollerski loop in fact. My glutes went into rebellion. I knew if I took my poles with me, I'd cave in and start using them. I recall the first time I skied up Livermore Rd. I could not V1 on the steep parts without stopping to catch my breath. At that time, I was a podium finisher in the Mt Washington bicycle hillclimb. I had the engine, but utterly lacked the technique. It was humbling to see little girls out-climb me on skis. Now I can smoothly skate all the way up without poles on an "off" day. I should try no-poles on much steeper Tripoli sometime.

With that, I called it a day - 34.4km, 2290ft vert, 2.3hrs.  The skies had grown very dark, and snow seemed eminent. Snow it did, on the drive home, which sucked. Clueless SUV drivers in a hurry to get back to Jersey. Lost count of mishaps, including roll-overs. By the time I got home over two hours later, it was raining.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Wind Power vs. Pedal Power

My body was in a wretched state when I got up this morning. Saturday's skate ski was a punisher. Even though my technique continues to improve, Brett can still put the screws to me on flat terrain. His V2 is so efficient, barely breaking 140bpm, while I flail away to stay with him. Head up something steep though, I sometimes return the favor.

I certainly was in no condition to race. Not even doing it "just for fun." Frankly, I really don't see the point of racing if you aren't there to give it a decent shot. Why bother. That's what organized fun rides are for. I do a number of races each year when I'm not 100%, like Fat Tire Classic after Turtle Pond, or Bow after Equinox. I can still be competitive in those cases while having fun. There's nothing like a ski workout to leave you lifeless the next day. Performance on the bike is degraded far more the day after a hard training ski than the day after a hard training ride. I wonder if this still holds true for skiers that cross train on the bike in summer.

Saturday looked to be a spectacular riding day, so a ride was still in the plan. Single-digit wind chills ruled out a road ride. ATVs had been on the powerline trails by my house, but I think only limited terrain would actually be rideable. Thoughts drifted further south. Was it Cape time? I really planned to get new tires on my Matrix today. Hmmm, bare dirt singletrack for a few hours or sit around at a tire shop for a few hours. Singletrack won. I can be irresponsible like that. I threw the Titus dualie in the xD and headed to Otis.

Total of collected GPS tracks from myself, Colin R and others.
The Goggle Earth KMZ filed can be downloaded from here.

There were about a dozen mountain biker cars at the Otis trail head. It was so warm on the Cape, I thought about going in short sleeves. Not really. It was about 29F and windy, 10F warmer than at home, enough to dress down one layer. In nine months, I nearly forgotten the lay of the land down there. It is easy to navigate though. A spaghetti maze takes you anywhere from anywhere. Sound of cars on Rt 28 forms one boundary. Rotary to north, base to east, powerlines through middle, and brilliant sun all keyed me in to my whereabouts at all times. I managed to hit bits I never rode before. The few spots that can be muddy were frozen solid. And of course, there was no snow. Except for lots of tree debris, conditions were wicked fast.

Attempting to track stand waiting for shutter to go.

Coming onto the Cape, I noticed a new, huge wind turbine on the base. I knew for years they have been trying to get a large wind farm started off the coast. Way too many people objected. People want "green" energy, but "not in my backyard." Mighty hypocritical. Well, the military base is a totally suitable location for wind energy. You have some big ridgelines in there, and big buffer zones from residential properties. Personally, I think wind turbines look pretty cool. I figured the one I saw from the highway was on Deer Horn Hill. Close, but not quite.

Two forms of renewable power from Mt Zig.

I didn't get to the turbine until late in my ride. My legs were entirely lifeless, so the hills in the area were really dragging me down, even with gears. I normally ride singlespeed in Otis. The wind was still blowing pretty good today, and you can hear the wind turbine a ways off. When I finally figured out how to get right up to it, I was amazed at how big it was. After research, I learned it is almost 400ft tall and generates 1.5 megawatts of power. That is over 5000 cyclists at threshold on ergs. The blades make a very distinct swooshing sound coming around. I bet the tips are moving 100mph. It doesn't turn at very high rpm's, but due to its enormity, the tips are moving faster than you think. The base must be 20ft in diameter. I shot video with my Lumix LX3, hoping to capture sound, but the wind was blowing across the microphone and drowned the turbine noise out.

This turbine went on line in just the last month. 17 have been approved for the site, but now I read the FAA is putting a stop to most of the turbines, citing aviation concerns. Wind power has been around for centuries. You'd think by now we'd get it. But no. A pittance of power is generated by wind in the US. This single turbine increases power generated by wind in Massachusetts by nearly 25%.

First time seeing this one. Stuff like this is scattered all over Otis.
Last slat before 5ft drop said "Good Luck!"

I rode over 2hrs, covering just 21.7 miles, probably my shortest Otis ride ever. I did seek out the most technical terrain though, and did more than usual climbing with 2400ft. With my daulie, I was able to clean sections I've never cleaned with my singlespeed. Good thing, else I have no business owning a daulie. I saw one person the whole time, a walker. Have no idea where the other bikers were. Many of the same cars with NEMBA stickers were still at the trail head when I left. Plan to hit snow again on Sunday.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Snow is for Skiing

Looks like winter may be here for good this time, unlike the false start two weeks ago. Hit Bretton Woods with Brett today on my off Friday. Looking at the morning radar, long fingers of lake effect snow were streaming off Lake Ontario into the White Mountains. It was hard to tell how much accumulation these hit-or-miss ribbons would tally at Bretton Woods. As we hit Franconia Notch, it was snowing quite hard.

I was driving. Most people that ride with me find my driving habits unnerving. Many get used to it. Some do not. My mother for example, will take a dramamine if she knows we'll be taking a trek with me driving. That's for an interstate. Two dramamine are needed, say for the Road to Hana in Hawaii. Brett is another person that has never fully adapted to my driving habits. I get reminded all the time. Don't know why. I've yet to have a mishap. Others may find my driving annoying, but I think Crackberries are annoying. We're heading through the Notch where I-93 necks down to one lane, it is slick and snowing hard. A Crackberry was nearly fumbled when I placed both hands on the dash screamed. Deservedly, I was called names.

It was in the teens and blowing like crazy at Bretton Woods. The parking lot was nearly empty. The golf course was pretty much blown bare. Conditions did not look promising, and I wondered if they were even open. Passes were $10, and the groomer was out. It had snowed several inches since much of the grooming the day before, and some trails were nearly drifted shut. The bits groomed within the hour skated quite nicely. Stuff groomed for the first time this season skated terribly. Punch-through was the biggest problem. A couple trails were littered with tree debris, the kind like snares that can easily capture a ski and give you a bad case of whiplash or worse. The groomer was making passes further up the mountain, but it was essentially unskateable. Plus he kept stopping to cut out fallen trees from recent storms. It snowed a couple more inches while we were there. In about 2hrs, we were cooked. It was all work, all the time. I had little distance or elevation on the GPS to show for all the hard work. Definitely an upper body workout kind of day and worth the trip.

Waterville Valley opens Saturday. Need a one day break I think, then plan to pick up my season pass and ski WV Sunday. Doesn't look good for Ice Weasels CX race on Saturday. Was looking forward to jumping in the SS category with my Dean MTB, but this time of year, snow sports trumps bike sports for me.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I coulda used these today

Outdoor conditions are in that inbetweeny state right now. There's not enough snow anywhere to support decent XC skiing, and many back roads are still dicy for road cycling from Saturday's snow dump. After a rare, true rest day Monday, I was eager go at something hard. Had to be rollerskiing. Wednesday is going to be a mess with impending storm. With any luck, I could be back on snow Friday.

There's something not quite right rollerskiing when the ground is mostly white. Even worse, I nearly crashed a couple times today pushing off on icy patches in the shade.  Perhaps Thom P was on to something when he suggested studded rollerski tires. I made my own studded MTB tires before really good ones became commercially available.  Guess I'll have to do the same with rollerski tires until Thom patents and sells his idea to Nokian for a million bucks. Then Nokian can begin producing millions of studded rollerski tires per year. This could be awesome. Skiers could save so much money by not having to pay trail fees anymore or buy exotic, expensive waxes.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Nashua Ski Track

Was bumming Sunday morning. Just enough snow to preclude rollerskiing and road cycling, but not enough for any XC ski centers to open/re-open. A trail ride might have worked fine. Four hours of that the day before was enough for the weekend. Then on a whim, I called SteveG who lives on the Nashua Country Club golf course. He just got back in from classic skiing on the course. He highly recommended the warmest, wettest wax I had, as the base was essentially slush even though the top layer was dry powder. I put on some cheap fluoro, Fast Wax bronze. The Nashua CC is 10 minutes away. The sun had been on the course for a couple hour now, so conditions were deteriorating quickly. I found anything but the close cropped fairway grass was utterly unskateable. The snow sat on top of the taller grass and skate skis would just cut under it and ride on nothing but grass. A few face plants steered me to a nice 0.7km loop that skated quite well, albeit slow. I managed a fairly strenuous 49 minute workout before things got too slushy. Had I been on the ball, I could have gotten a 2+ hour workout in. Forecast is looking favorable for better ski conditions next weekend.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Chelmsford Meander

Seems last weekend at Bretton Woods was just a teaser. No skateable snow was to be found Saturday, unless you wanted to poach some alpine terrain early morning. I live too far away from open downhill areas to pull that off, actually. So DaveP and I had an LSD (long, steady, distance) ride in mind. I stumbled across a trail data base website for Chelmsford and Carlisle recently. There are many snippets of trails open to bikes on public land in these communities. The ride would be quite urban, never more than a stone's throw from houses or super highways, but mostly on dirt. Rain and snow were expected to move in some time after lunch, so we needed an early start if we hoped to get a 50 miler in.

Lime Quarry upper left, Russell Mill upper right,
rail trail left side, power lines center top

Our planned loop would hit, the Cranberry Bogs (where we parked to avoid Mass tax at Great Brook), Lime Quarry, George Wright Reservation, the powerlines that cut through Chelmsford, Great Brook, Russell Mill, Conant Reservation, and Towle Forest. Not sure this would tally 50 miles, but it would certainly be more than 40.

First surprise of the ride was the rail trail that connects the Cranberry Bogs with Lime Quarry. Google terrain view clearly shows it to be dirt, but they paved the sucker! Apparently, when completed, the 25 mile Bruce Freeman Rail Trail will connect Lowell with Framingham. Looked like a top notch affair with fencing, stripes, etc. It will no doubt be a major commuter link when completed.

Dave bombing buff descent in Lime Quarry

The Lime Quarry trails were swept clean of leaves. In fact, we found all of the trails in Chelmsford, including Russell Mill, to be completely cleared of leaves. Certainly makes riding more enjoyable and the tread clearly defined. Sometimes I wonder though if leaf pack helps control erosion. It was my first time riding in Lime Quarry. Nothing exciting. Some decent elevation change for such a small area, and you could go crazy fast in places.

The loop through George Wright Reservation gently rolled, was wide singletrack, and cleared of leaves. Only a mile or so long, so nothing worth going to by itself. From here we followed the power lines a couple miles to another trail shown on the Chelmsford map. I think this one was wishful thinking. It didn't exist. We tried in vain to find hint of trail from both ends. Churning out miles on pavement was all we scored. That kind of sucked. To make this loop work, many bits of trail are needed to keep it feeling like a trail ride. You lose that woodsy feeling with a long, busy stretch of pavement. To top it off, we actually got yelled at by some guy to stay off the grass and on the path. The town map clearly shows public access to conservation land off that dead-end culdesac. It was more like a vacant lot than grass. Got to keep the loonies on the path.

We were putzing along at a recreational pace for the most part. I think Dave was saving himself for a planned Fred Worlds ride Sunday morning. The sky was getting darker. The wind was starting to kick up. Errant drops were felt every now than then. I was itching for a little more intensity and didn't want to finish in another wet slog like Turkey Burner last weekend.

HJ on a slope-side log in Russell Mill

We got through Russell Mill just fine. Didn't exactly clean all the logs. I did ride a couple things I haven't tried before. It was here this spring that I crashed over the most miniscule of rocks. Hope I keep regained skills through the winter. Like to hit some early season MTB races next year.

Dave dropping into the chute on Stone Rowe in Great Brook

The rain became more persistent riding in Great Brook. It wasn't quite hard enough to soak the body yet. Temp was dropping, and snow was starting to mix in. There are a couple trails in GB that can be hammered at all-out race pace. One is Perimeter Trail. I expended a couple matches on that one. A short bit of pavement loops us out and back into GB at the Trophet/Heartbreak loop. I love hammering this loop too. To loop it from entering on the south, you have to go around one and a half times. Going leisurely, we passed a couple guys going the opposite way on Trophet. I thought crap, now I have to watch out for them when I race-pace a full loop, which takes about 5 minutes. They weren't much further along than the first time I passed them when I went buy, and the one guy went "Whoa! Whoa!"  Not as in "dude, you shouldn't be going that fast," but rather, "holy shit dude, you're hauling-A!" Man I miss racing. There was plenty of room for us to ride by each other. I ride a lap or two of that loop at all-out TT pace every time I hit GB. Know it very well, ride it like on rails.  Waiting for Dave, the other two guys came up to junction point and we talked a bit. More than a couple matches were burned on that one. I thought that would nicely cap off four hours of riding.

At this point we knew we weren't going to finish the whole loop. It was getting pretty wet out. We bailed on the Old Morse Rd/Conant/Towle Forest extension. That entails a bunch of pavement anyway linking it up. We finished with just over 40 miles and 4hrs on the Garmin. Pretty flat too with only 2600ft of climbing on the altimeter. Turned out to be a fine morning for riding.  Must have burned a few calories. Couldn't stop eating the rest of the day.  I'd probably add the northern bits to a greater Great Brook ride again, especially if I went back with a single speed. Although I'd be spinning out the whole way down that paved rail path. As I type, the snow is coming down heavily. Could this be the beginning of the end of the 2009 dirt riding? Time to put the new studs on.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Better than cleaning chains and dodging pine cones

The storm that made riding unpleasant for much of the holiday weekend dumped abundant snow in the Whites. Hard to imagine, as it never got very cold in southern New Hampshire. Bretton Woods was open Saturday on 4km of trail and expected to open more for Sunday as they cleared storm damage. I needed a recovery day Saturday anyway, so timing would be perfect. The nearly foot of new snow would have a chance to set up.

Waxing skis is way less messy than cleaning dirty bikes.

I couldn't find any other takers on short notice, so I headed up solo. It was a brilliant sunny day. Heading up I-93, you could see that the Whites in the distance were indeed snow capped. Driving for nearly another hour, still no snow on the ground. There was zero snow in Lincoln and only a dusting at the summit of Loon Mtn Ski Area. As I began to head up into the Notch, it was like a switch flipped to winter wonderland. In two minutes it went from no snow to nearly a foot of snow. I feared it might be altitude only, but as I descended into Twin Mountain, the snow did not diminish at all. The snow bank at the corner of Rt 3 and Rt 302 was higher than my car. Awesome.

I got to Bretton Woods before 10am. The parking lot was full. Hope they had a lot more than 4km open, else things were going to be very crowded.

Thanksgiving weekend in the Whites

I waxed with yellow, figuring the wet snow was still saturated and it was supposed to rise above freezing. I think I got it right. Conditions were fast. The first grooming always contours the undulating terrain underneath, making V2'ing the first time on snow for the season tricky. Snow has much different feel to it than rollerskis on pavement. It took about 5-10km before I began to feel completely comfortable. I'd guess around 6-8km were groomed when I started, and the chainsaws were still going on some trails to clear the way for the groomer. Heavy, wet snow and subsequent wind took a lot of trees down.

There were numerous juniors there on classics, maybe out numbering skaters 3:1. Saw a couple familiar masters faces. Trails were busy but it rarely interfered with keeping a nice tempo pace going. I planned to ski about 2hrs/30km, but when I saw the groomer had made a new sweep through the biathlon range area, I kept going. How often can you skate right after the groomer on 10" of new snow and it is perfect? The moisture content, density and temperature were such that the freshly groomed snow set up instantly. Seems the wind carried the scent of fresh corduroy, as this new 2km of trail quickly filled with skaters. Big smiles all the way around, perfect V2 cruising material. After a couple bonus laps on this stuff, my turkey pop-out button popped. I was cooked.

All the flat stuff was groomed by the time I finished.

I skied about 37km in 2.4hrs. The only thing missing were hills. Due to limited terrain being open, BW was charging only $10. This includes showers and fresh towels! I think that was the best $10 I've spent all year. Sure beats another ride in glop and having to spend an hour cleaning the drivetrail again.  No chance of hitting BW mid week, so it looks like its back to dodging pine cones on rollerskis. Going to suck.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Better than shopping at Kohl's

Black Friday to some is Turkey Burner day to others. FOMBA puts this great ride on each year. I've been doing it as long as I can remember. Seen every kind of weather and conditions too. It was 25F with rock hard frozen ground one year, at least two years with 2" or more of snow on the ground, near short sleeve weather another time, and a few times with rain or wet conditions. This year was the wettest. Give me any other conditions.  Low 40's and pouring rain is the worst.

The line for Kohl's entry

A few of us hoped to hook up early for the ride. Getting up at 7am, it seemed doubtful anybody would be stupid enough to go mountain biking in what I was looking at outside. I didn't relish the thought, but the night before I emphatically stated I would go if anybody else did. SteveG didn't back down. The weak in spirit shall go nameless. That meant I had to kit up after all.

Getting there a half hour after registration opened, there were less than 10 cars in the parking lot. Last year there were over a hundred by the same time. It was pouring, and it was not warm. I signed the waiver, and Jack Chapman quipped they added a couple hills to the course just for me. He'd also like to make a CX convert out of me. Some day... We didn't bother putting our number plates on. They would've soon disintegrated anyway. Besides, it's just a fun ride.

The line for Turkey Burner registration

Steve and I were first to roll out. There were no other tracks in the mud. The 27 mile course begins by looping around Massabesic Lake on fire roads. There was no point in avoiding the puddles. It was all puddles. I wore AmFib tights with DeMoulas baggies under neoprene booties. Up top, a base layer, a medium weight PI thermal layer and a waterproof vinyl rain shell. A heavy weight beanie and lobstah mitts finished the kit. It worked well.

We finished the fire road section and got to Auburn Center. Funny, the arrows didn't go the normal way for the "hero" singletrack section. We surmised that maybe Jack wasn't joking, they routed the course over one of the ledges along the lake. Well, the short beginner loop does just that, a section we usually don't hit. Before we knew it, we were heading back towards the cars. Backtracking began. A bit of road took us back to Auburn. Either hooligans removed some arrows or things were marked more tersely, particularly the sign that normally splits hero from beginner loop.

Steve on Fireline. Pefect day for a MTB ride, eh?

Back on track, the 3+ mile Fireline trail was first, one of the more technical. FOMBA is characterized by super twisty singletrack with non-stop roots and rocks. It can be challenging to clean when dry. Do it in steady rain, it is definitely expert material. I think Steve and I were getting more chuckles per mile than we ever have, laughing at our own or each other's bobbles. Long Trail was next, 2+ miles, and the most technical. I dabbed three times, which is quite good considering conditions. Woodpecker is the newest trail. It is the most buff, but today was the deepest (water) and greasiest. We pretty much race-paced the thing. I could not shake Steve off my tail. I thought surely one of us would have a rendezvous with a tree before this silliness ended. We survived, barely.

On Lady Slipper, a few guys below on the rail trail spotted us and took a short cut up to Lady Slipper. They looked pretty serious, so I ramped it up a notch. One of them passed Steve and was gaining on me. Funny how something like that pushes you into race mode. This trail is lots scarier at speed than Woodpecker. More rocks to break bones. I managed to hold the guy off until coming back to fire road. We waited for our riding buds. Turns out that the group of three were lost and were puzzled by lack of singletrack. Hmm, Steve and I hit about 8 miles already. They also missed the turn in Auburn and went all the way back to the cars. They weren't familiar with the area and didn't know any better. Fortunately, we were near the kiosk with an area map, so I got them situated with the start of the "hero" section.

Steve had taken a header on Lady Slipper. Stuff like that happens when you are getting tired and fast guys show up on your wheel. He decided to call it a day with over 2hrs riding time so far. I was still doing ok, not getting cold, and figured I might as well finish it while I'm out there. There were still seven named trails to finish. The pace until now had been quite brisk at times. I backed it down for the remainder of the ride, a comfortable tempo pace just enough to keep warm. I did not see another rider for the next hour, and it didn't look like any of the trails had been touched yet (except for Fox Tail, which the group of three found by accident). There was a brief lull in the rain, but it soon came back with a vengeance.

When I got back to the cars, none of the cars that were there when Steve and I rolled out were left. Only a handful of other cars were there, and half of them might have been dog walkers. Most years about 300 riders show up.  Doubt even 50 made it today.  It was not the suckfest I anticipated. Not only was it better than shopping at Kohl's, it was downright fun. I finished with 32.3 miles on the odometer in 3.4hrs riding time. The ride normally goes about 27 miles without missing the Auburn turn. I wonder what next year's 'Burner will bring?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Fat Doug Returns

Towards the end of summer, my sustained body weight was reaching a 30 year low, right around 160 lbs. I wasn't doing anything special. I traded intervals for "just riding my bike." I certainly didn't curtail eating. Research suggests interval training doesn't burn calories as effectively as steady moderate efforts. You do your hard 3-5 minute efforts, destroy your body in five of these, then you are done for the day. I've been doing a lot more mountain biking this summer and especially this fall. Without focused, intense efforts to break my body down, I can ride moderately hard for the whole ride and on most days. This undoubtedly burns more calories per week than doing a couple days with short uber hard efforts, often necessitating a rest day the next day.

Then work got busy. Hours went up. One- or two-day business trips with no chance to ride. Lunch meetings have become increasingly popular, as we are already working evenings, so the only time left to squeeze meetings in is at lunch (when I ride). This drives stress levels went up. Stress alone can cause one's body to make fat. Adding it up: reduced aerobic activity + increased stress + loaded meals in meetings or on travel = weight gain.

I didn't hold back feasting today. Out of curiosity, I stepped on the scale. Precariously close to 170! Not quite an apples to apples comparison though. I normally weigh myself in the morning when I'm partially dehydrated, not after eating half of a turkey and pumpkin pie. The body fat is inching up too. I'm normally around 9% in the morning (dehydrated) and 7% later in the day (fully hydrated). 10% late today is clearly a bad trend.

I'm don't freak over this shit. Do you? Some do but won't openly admit to it. I do not obsess over food or my weight. I've had no trouble maintaining a weight in the mid to low 160's for 10 years. The sooner snow gets here, the better though. XC skiing burns calories at a much higher rate than riding.

So what's with the Fat Doug bobble head? We all have good days and bad days on the bike. A while back, I was having a surprisingly good day when SteveG and I headed into the woods at lunch. He wasn't having as good of a day. Apparently I have a few annoying phrases, or euphemisms for wondering what is holding things up.  One of these phrases is "What's going on?" You know, wondering if maybe they had a mechanical, and that's why it took so long to come up that last hill. Maybe the brakes are rubbing or a tire is going soft. I guess when you are just sucking wind or have lead legs that day, you don't want to hear smart-assed rhetorical questions.

Back at work in email chatter, Steve commented to DaveP all he needed to finish making him go batty was a Doug bobble head that repeated "What's going on?", "Do you have a soft tire?", or "Is a brake rubbing?"  It just so happened that I had a Michelin Man bobble head in my office, something that was thrown in a race swag bag this summer. Yeah, that will work.  A quick print of a Fat Doug picture from the web and a permanent marker completed the Fat Doug bobble head. It was perfect Steve wasn't in his office when I placed it on top of his monitor. I could almost here him go GAH! from the other side of the building when he returned. Yeah, we can have fleeting instances of fun at work.

So now Fat Doug stares back at me by my home computer as a reminder.  The equation is a pretty delicate balance. When weekly volume normally burns the equivalent of two pounds of fat, a protracted period off the bike would produce a dramatic weight gain. Even a 25% reduction in volume could see a two pound gain per month. That's probably the realm I've been in the last couple months. As long as other factors don't interfere with riding and training, my weight takes care of itself. When training runs into interference, some manual intervention may be needed in the diet. Not looking forward to it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hill Junkie Basement

I placed separate orders recently for two kinds of tires - 26" studded tires and 4" rollerski tires (actually wheels minus bearings). They arrived the same time. I've gotten about five seasons on my Nokian Extreme's. The tread is still in pretty good shape, but the carbide studs are about half gone. This means they no longer offer superior performance on icy surface. Suitable for road riding, but risky on off-road ice flows. The new Nokian's, now called Extreme 294 (294 studs per tire), have a modified tread design. It is more open. I suspect they will roll slower on hard surfaces, but that is hardly a concern for winter riding. I'm mostly after the quality of riding outdoors, getting good training value, and avoiding the dreaded "point ride" on a trainer. had a good price on these at $70 each. I spent about as much for two new tires as I did on my new Niflheim rollerskis with four wheels.

26" Nokian Extreme 294 with 4" Pursuit "slow" wheel

The 4" wheels are replacements for my Pursuit rollerskis. I've half used the wheels that were on them in two seasons. They don't handle the same when the wheel diameter gets smaller, they are more susceptible to skidding on stones and pine cones, and they seem to be getting faster with less rubber on the wheel hubs. They were too fast to begin with. So I'm replacing all four wheels with higher resistance tires. I will continue to use my Pursuit's on rainy days, especially after roads are salted, and for lunch break workouts. Salt is very nasty to bearings. I'll use my new Niflheim's for hilly endurance workouts.

When I scouted for a hook to hang my new Nokian tires on, I was confounded. All my tire hanging hooks were already overloaded. A quick count around the room revealed I have over 40 tires not mounted on bicycles right now. At least 10 of those are new, 20 of them barely used, and the remainder still in good shape. I don't keep junky tires around. How does one accumulate so many tires? I think a lot of the slightly used ones were experiments. They looked good on paper but performed poorly on the road or trail. Time to have a sale.

Pan of Hill Junkie basement. Much smaller than it looks. Hi-Rez

I also took note of my tube inventory. Over 50 in stock! Most of these are brand new in the boxes. I have several sizes of MTB tubes, from 1" for road slicks to 2.2". I even have a 29" tube and don't have a bike for it yet (I needed a spare when I rented a 29er last month). On the road side, I have 23mm tubes for racing and training, 28mm tubes for the tandem, 650c tubes for a bike my wife doesn't own anymore, and 35mm tubes for 'cross. Then mix in thin and thick wall, butyl and latex varieties into the mix. This adds up to enough tubes to last me 15 years. I don't throw away a tube from simple punctures either. I'll patch a tube up to two times before I discard it. I rarely flat.

I am completely out of space in my workshop. It is supposed to be a wood working shop, but bicycles and skis have completely taken over things. My Delta contractor's tablesaw doubles as additional workbench space when my primary workbench becomes clogged. Back in Michigan, I had a detached 1000 square foot building to keep this stuff in. That's when Fat Doug did multiple wood working projects per year and did not own any bikes.

Some day I'll design and build another house. It's hard to visualize that being more satisfying than riding and racing bikes right now. Cathy and I built our house in Michigan ourselves with very little outside help. We hired out only the site preparation, foundation, and thin-coat plaster work. We did everything else. It is a huge commitment, essentially a second full-time job for a year. No way I'm selling off the wood working equipment yet. I have two options to gain more space. I could move some of the equipment up three flights of stairs to the attic and hope I don't need to use it any time soon. Or I could put up another building on our property, pay lots more in taxes, just to have a place to keep infrequently used equipment. I sure hope I don't take a chunk of plaster out of the wall lugging a 150 lb jointer up the stairs.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Niflheim S600 Review

I finally got a chance to properly put my new rollerskis through the ringer. They are the Niflheim S600's. They come stock with speed reducers. I own a set of V2 Aero's with speed reducers, but I got sick of buying tires and tubes for them. Plus you never know when a tire will disintegrate. You could be 8 miles from your car. The V2 speed reducers work great.  I like to do hills and I'm not skilled or brave enough to go 30mph down roads with no means of slowing down or stopping. You roadies out there, would you go 30mph down a hill with no brakes on a free wheeling bike? I bet not.  Too much shit can happen, like cars, dogs, debris or potholes.  I've been using my Pursuit rollerskis most of the last two years. These use 4" solid rubber wheels, but do not come with speed reducers. The Pursuit's limit how hilly of terrain I can tackle. The loop I do at work has a modest blip in it, staying under 20mph on the descent. So I was looking for a low cost, low maintenance rollerski that could be equipped with speed reducers. The Niflheim's perfectly fill this niche.

Niflheim 600's with Pursuit's in background

I ordered a set immediately after learning about them on Alex's blog. I transferred bindings over from an old set of skate skis that are beyond "rock ski" condition. Out of the box, the Niflheim's felt quite heavy, at least compared to my Pursuit's. Some of the weight is in the speed reducer mechanism, but I suspect most of it is in the alloy shaft. The extrusion has at least 50% thicker wall thickness than my Pursuit's. Perfert for 200 lb guys. The shafts are also about 2" longer than my Pursuit's, presumably to accommodate speed reducers with big footed skiers. Longer rollerskis should emulate skate skis better.  I also noticed that in higher resistance settings, a sharp jolt could dislodge the speed reducer back to zero resistance. This worried me some. Could a crack in the road do this, right when you needed the most resistance? The escapement latch has a very wimpy spring in it. A spring with twice the torsion would solve this concern. The shape of the latch teeth contribute too. They angle down. I found that the powder coat paint was very slippery. I scraped it out of the latch teeth. The latch was much less likely to slip then.

Nothing but walls with no brakes

Sunday morning I met up with Brett R at his house for a two hour roll. He warned me to make sure I bring good working speed reducers (like my big-wheeled Aero's). I brought my new Niflheim's instead. Brett's route is more or less an out and back in Westborough, MA. It was friggin hilly. None of the Littleton gentle rollers, these were full-on walls. I think Brett wanted to hurt me. The steepest climb had a sustained grade of 16% per my Garmin. The pavement was not good, chip seal over busted asphalt. At the top, Brett said we had to go back down that! This is from a guy who's more cautious on the descents than I.

We hit a chip seal descent that was really rough. With no speed reduction set, the latches rattle something fierce on the S600's. It was so loud it was hard to talk to Brett over it or hear approaching cars. The rattle wasn't the only annoyance. The stiff aluminum shafts sent all that vibration into the ankles. It was so intense that it tickled funny bones in my feet, making me recoil from the vibration. I think my Pursuit's would behave similarly on this particularly harsh section of chip seal, but without the rattles. The extra heavy duty shafts on the S600's don't exactly help dampen vibration.

Min and max speed reducer resistance settings

Now here's the deal with the S600 speed reducers. If you set them to just rubbing the tire in the off position, you get only about 50% of the braking power of Aero's when going to max resistance. If I accept more resistance in the off state by adjusting the resistance bearing tighter, I get a little better max state resistance. But then I'm killing myself on the flats. Basically, the range of speed reduction is quite small. You can get 0 to 1/2, 1/4 to 3/4, or 1/2 to full by wrenching the initial preload in the resistance bearings. Starting with little resistance means you'll never get a lot in the max state.  I can get 0 to full with my V2's with no wrenching. Now you may counter with say, "competent skiers don't need all the speed reduction," or "if you really need that much speed reduction, route choice needs improvement." These are valid criticisms. I found I pretty much was using all or nothing of the S600 speed reduction range. Even in minimum state, slower rubber wheels and the residual speed reduction resistance made the S600's much slower than my Pursuit's, which frankly were too fast anyway.

Two ways to improve speed reducer resistance range

There are two ways to address this resistance range deficiency. One is to move the resistance arm pivot point back slightly so resistance ramps up more aggressively. The other is to space the teeth further apart, using a slightly longer latch mechanism that lets the resistance arm swing further. I just may make my own latch. It is very simple, laser cut aluminum. I could probably make a pair with a band saw and belt sander.

On our return, Brett and I went around the 16% descent but hit an almost as steep descent one road over. Brett yelled something at me as I bolted away. It sounded like "it get's steep," but he really said "it stops at a tee." I had my resistance on maximum, was snowplowing like crazy to scrub more speed off, and was still going over 20mph. It got steeper. Then I saw the stop sign at the bottom with ZERO run-out. It was hard to tell if cars were coming or not, so I was looking for holes through trees and rocks to bail if it came down to that. No cars were coming. I merged onto the cross road at about 20mph. I waited for Brett, who had and used twice the resistance I had available. I could see panic on his face coming through that stop sign too, at half my speed. Then he's laughing when I told him how insane that was. Proof he was trying to kill me. I think he's trying to eliminate a potential threat at the races this winter.

Plummet of Death with stair step climb in distance

We had a long stair step climb coming up next. We had been out about 90 minutes, and I still felt pretty good. Kind of knowing the way back, I passed Brett and ratcheted the pace up a notch. I V2'd pretty much the whole way up the sucker and put a little distance on Brett. That was payback for the hairball descent. We got back to Brett's house in exactly 2hrs rolling time, covering 17.0 miles with 1600ft of climbing. Seems really slow, but you'd have to see the climbs and some of the pavement to have the whole picture.

In summary, here's what I like and don't like about the Niflheim S600's:
Seem ultra durable
All stainless steel hardware (salty roads no problem)
Anodized shafts
Speed reducer releases easily (V2's are awkward)

Low price includes speed reducers

Speed reducer range is very limited
Speed reducer rattles in lowest setting
Tad on the heavy side (still 200g/ski lighter than V2's)
Sturdy construction transmits more road vibration

I'll definitely be using these more. I'm sure the speed reduction range is just fine for the Littleton loop. The Littleton course feels safer to me anyway. There was only one gradual descent to stop sign, and the asphalt on average is much better in Littleton. I felt quite stable on the S600's. They really don't handle much differently than my Pursuit's.  I think the S600 speed reducer design is quite clever, certainly worthy of patenting (if patents didn't cost so much).

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Going Long at Leominster

I had a choice today between doing a local CX race or going on a "high IQ pleasure ride." Race reports tend to produce more interesting blog fodder. The deal is, I've been enjoying the off-road riding more than ever this year. I also haven't done any focused intensity work in about three months now. That will change as the ski season ramps up. I weighed fun-factor of a 45 minute race versus a four hour ride at a place I haven't been to in a while. A fabulous fall day was forecasted. The long ride option won out. This means no race report. Sorry.

DaveP was also interested in a long ride. We considered options in the White Mountains, seeing there is still zero snow even at the summit of Mt Washington. Many routes I've been kicking around are untested. I really prefer to test them alone first, as I don't mind so much if I end up in 30 minute hike-a-bike rock scrambling slog.  Dave has never been to Leominster State Forest, and I don't think I've been there yet this year. With Wachusett Mtn nearby to stretch the legs on before heading into the woods, there is more than enough riding material there to keep endurance junkies entertained for 3-4 hours.

We started out with a jaunt to the summit of Wachusett. No hammering, just nice hard tempo pace for me. Took 21 minutes via the old Wednesday night TT route (minus the hairpin extension). Not bad at comfortable pace on full suspension MTB with knobbies, considering my typical time for the TT was over 18 minutes. Many hikers were up there. It was too hazy to see Boston though.

Dave cresting Wachusett summit

We went down the gated back side, a mix of badly busted up asphalt and gravel. We may have gone a little "wayward" heading down, sampling just a taste of forbidden fruit. Swinging back by the car, we picked up Camelbaks and headed into Leominster State Forest for the main course.

Undisclosed location, but might have something to do with coming down what's in background

A few neurons must've died since the last time I rode in LSF. I forgot how my loop started out and promptly got all turned around in there. After about 15 minutes, it came back to me. None of the trails have published names, so there's not much to say about which trails we hit. Basically, we hit almost all of the singletrack I know about. About a third of the way into the ride, we climbed Ball Hill. It should really be named Ball Buster Hill. With leaf drop and Friday's rain, traction was scarce in many places. Dave and I both cleaned the 300ft beast. Off the back side, heading kind of northeast, is some of the most brutal and technical terrain in LSF. Dualies are highly recommended. I ran my tubeless tires silly low, maybe close to 20psi, to find traction in the leaves. Dave was on a Santa Cruz demo bike and did not have the luxury to go as low with his non-tubeless setup. He still cleaned almost everything anyway.

Last year I dabbed continuously in LSF. More than doubling my off-road riding hours this year has paid big dividends. I've gotten most of my finesse and some of my cajones back. I was having one of those rides where I was just "on." Legs felt good, and almost no fear-factor let me carry much more momentum than I usually carry in LSF.

Poking around in Google Earth and on the web looking for ways to extend a LSF ride, I found the Monoosnoc Ridge Trail above the town of Leominster. Photos from vantage points looked nice. Had no idea if it was rideable, singletrack, or even open to mountain bikes. The vague map also didn't make it obvious how to link it in from planned LSF route. We'd have to wing it.

Towards the far northeast corner of LSF, I started looking for trails/doubletracks that might take us up to the Monoosnoc ridgeline. I did spot a brand new piece of singletrack, one I think Steve G was telling me about recently. It went up. A lot. And over many large rocks. It was wet in places too. Most of the riding thus far had been surprisingly dry despite heavy rain Friday. I had major fun on this trail, as when you are "on," you want to milk it for all its worth and keep going on challenging terrain. I dabbed only twice before cresting the high point. There were more spur trails from this trail that will have to be explored some other time. Unfortunately, this trail did not cross the Monoosnoc Ridge Trail. We came out on Elm Street by the Haynes Reservoir. Now I knew where we were. Monoosnoc crosses Elm St close by. The trailhead did not prohibit bike use, but did not specifically allow it either. Prohibited uses to permitted uses were at least 4:1. A man was hauling ice storm logs out of the town land and seemed cool to our presence. He commented most of the Monoosnoc Ridge Trail was indeed doubletrack. We decided to hit a few mile section to the next paved road then cut back into LSF to wrap up the ride. This took us over Bayberry Hill, no view, then bony descent to Wachusett St. Have to explore in here more some other time. It is a very large tract of land. There were spurs trails off the main trail, and we missed the northern section with alleged views.

We followed a bit of pavement to Parmenter Rd, the fire road that bisects LSF. This leads directly back to the cars parked off Rt 31. Another snippet of singletrack, which is actually signed Loop Trail was hit on the way. Many other mountain bikers were just heading out as we were wrapping up our ride. It was warm enough to go in short sleeves most of the day. Awesome for late November. I wore hunter's orange to be safe. A single archer was encountered. The ride finished out with 36.3mi, 4280ft in 3:50hrs on the Garmin. Definitely my longest ride in LSF, and nearly four hours there produces more punishment than twice as much at Kingdom Trails would. Just non-stopped brutal, and this time I totally loved it.