Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Singletrack Solitude

So how do you cap off a fabulous weekend of riding and rollerskiing? You hit the best singletrack in the northeast. Sunday I was feeling a bit hung over from hammering out 6-gaps on Saturday. Cathy and I took the tandem over to the Nashua River Rail Trail for an easy 40km out and back. It can be a test of patience riding there on a busy weekend, especially when tandems like to cruise at 25mph with minimal effort on flat terrain. Little three and four year olds can look right at you and proceed to ride right into you. Just as tandems take a while to get moving, they also take a while to get stopped. Kids will be kids I suppose. Of course, their parents think we are the bad guys despite their oblivious rug-rats running us off the trail.

After 80 minutes of getting the legs functioning again, Cathy and I hopped on other sets of wheels. She donned rollerblades, I rollerskis. Not exactly an ideal recovery activity the day after 6-gaps, but it had been two months since I last skied. My thumb is even just starting to get back to normal after crashing at Sugarloaf multiple times. I'm pretty sure now that I fractured it. Still hurts to squeeze a Gu or use thumb shifter on MTB. I V2'd a lite aerobic 21.2km. Focusing on maximizing glide on each leg, I was amazed at how improved my balance was compared to last fall when I started ski training. Can't say Sunday was beginning of 2009/2010 ski season training. The riding is going way to good right now.

When I awoke Monday morning at 8:30am, I felt like death. I was sweating in our air conditioned bedroom. I had toyed with the idea of hitting the Kingdom Trails earlier in the week but wanted to take a wait and see approach. Wolfed down some Cheerios, gulped a really dark home-brewed Starbucks, checked the weather. Zero percent chance of rain. High of 60 for East Burke. In my caffeine altered state, that weather report pretty much clinched it. I was going to hit some dirt. Cathy had to work all day, so I was free to go. The Titus Racer-X was still prep'd for the Windsted Woods race that I bailed on.

It takes less then three hours to reach East Burke, VT, and that includes coffee, gas and #2 stops. Pulling in, I noticed a very dusty Rooter-mobile. I assumed correctly he was doing a race/ride weekend up that way. With a 100+ mile trail network, I thought the prospects of crossing paths with him was slim.

All great Kingdom Trails rides start from town and summit Burke Mountain to get the legs warmed up. No matter if you were still reeling from the hardest ride in the east two days prior. My legs felt surprisingly strong. I hit sections of singletrack on the way up, like Camptown. It was a pristine day out, mostly sunny, no humidity, windy to keep black flies down, and cool. In fact, it was downright cold at the summit. I never even stopped, being only in short layers. I froze in my sweat saturated state descending back to singletrack heaven.

Closeup of Burke Mtn trails

I believe this was the first time I've taken a dual suspension bike to the Northeast Kingdom. I was amazed how well the Racer-X flowed over the techy stuff on Dead Moose Alley. Further down I flew through some of the bonier sections of Moose Alley. It was easy to clean everything and carry more speed. The bike was perfectly dialed. I crossed over VT 114 to hit Nosedive and White School. It was nearly two hours into my ride when I encountered my first other riders. I got back to my car still feeling fresh. Grabbed some more fluids and munchies and headed out for another two hour's worth.

The guys at the KTA office told me Sidewinder was even improved over last year. I thought that would be hard to beat. That was a must do. And Tap-and-Die. And Rim, Fenceline, Kitchel and more. Tons of cool stuff over on the Darling Hill side. The deal was, each time you rip down one of these amusement park ride trails, you had to climb back up Darling Hill to rip down the next one. The vertical stacked up.

North view from half way up Burke

At the top of Sidewinder, I ran into a group of maybe 10 teens. They asked if I had a pump. I reluctantly said yes. I asked "do you mean to tell me that between the 10 of you, you don't have a single pump?" Nope. The kid that flatted doing monster hucks off stacked lumber deserved to walk six miles back to his car. So I stopped. So now how many spare tubes do you think they had? Yep, you got it. He did have a patch kit though. For a double pinch flat. I think they managed to kill about 15-20 minutes of my time. Oh well. Moments later I passed one of them on Sidewinder. He muttered something like he went over backwards. He, he, he. There is no trail like it anywhere I've been. A true masterpiece. I thought about doing it again but my time was running out.

Switchback on Rim Trail

I still had to work my way all the way back the other side of Darling Hill. I hadn't been on Rim in a while. Before some of the newer trails like Tody's, Tap-and-Die and Sidewinder were built, this was one of my favorites. Climbing back up on East Branch, I think I got my heartrate up higher than climbing Lincoln Gap on Saturday. As I was nearing the junction with VAST on narrow, bench-cut trail, I came eye to eye with the biggest black bear I've seen in New England. I bet he was a 400 pounder. I had no where to go. Fortunately, he took one look at me and decided he didn't want to have anything to do with me. He bolted. You could never out-ride a bear in the woods. You are minced bear meat if he wants a piece of you. Getting a picture would have been cool, but living to blog about it has greater value.

Profile and grade. Note sustained 25% grade section on Burke. Hard to keep front wheel down.

As I finish every Kingdom Trails ride, I worked my way up to top of Kitchel for the bermed blast back down to town. I was running on fumes by this point. It was a good point to end the ride. I think that was one of my best KT rides ever. I felt like I pretty much had the place to myself. Almost like riding in Colorado. We're really fortunate to have riding this good within a day-trip reach. My Garmin logged a vertical mile of climbing over 35.4 miles distance in 4:04hrs time. I had no lower back fatigue like I typically do riding my hardtail that long. I think the Racer-X will see lots more use this summer.


Luke S said...

You beat me to rollerskis. My first day out will probably be Saturday.

Anonymous said...

IF your going 25mph on a rail trail you are in the wrong.

Dave said...

If I ever get a full-time job in my field again, maybe I'll have to invest in a FS bike, like a Yeti. From what I remember about them, they just seemed so squishy (a turnoff).

Hill Junkie said...

That is why I bought a dualie with the patented Specialized FSR suspension. Minimal squish factor. Many, maybe even most full suspension bikes sold in Europe use this design where Specialized's patent does not apply and they don't have to pay licensing fees there. It works. Both fork and shock have lock-outs on them. For a long climb like Burke, I lock them out at the bottom. Bike is essentially a slightly heavy hardtail at that point. Suspension that works well can actually improve rough off-road climbing by maintaining traction. This is my first FSR suspension bike I've owned. I've rented them many times on travel and was always impressed with the bump absorbing performance and pedaling efficiency.