Sunday, October 25, 2009

Slip Sliding Away

Time for NEMBA's Wicked Ride of the East again. It is an organized "fun ride" that snakes 22 miles through the most technical bits of Harold Parker State Forest (HP). I think for three years in a row now, copious rain fell in the hours preceding the ride. It poured buckets Saturday and into the night before this years ride. HP is tricky enough in best conditions. I never seem to leave there without mishap either.

I arrived early, met up with Dave Penney and a crew of good riders out of Exeter. We were rolling shortly after 9am with everything still soaking wet despite brilliant sunlight. I certainly was in the minority. I think there were more 29" bikes than 26" bikes. Lots of singlespeeds, but I think Dave and I were the only ones sportin' the small wheels. I just read somewhere that five years from now 26" wheeled mountain bikes will be as popular as V-brakes today. Nobody rides V-brakes anymore.

Riding in the mist of 15-20 riders in juicy conditions was a test of patience. At any one time, somebody was dabbing. Eventually I worked my way towards the front with Rich Brown and got a nice rhythm going. Until I tanked. About mid ride I tried to hop up a ledgy rock outcropping precariously perched above water to the right when my front wheel jackknifed. Body slam into the rocks was the result. My left forearm broke my fall. Probably close to a break. When I got home, Cathy noted that I even scraped the hair off my arm. Yeah, that's how sharp the rock was. Two years ago I ended the ride early when I nearly broke my hip. A bruised arm I could deal with. I plodded on.

Later in the ride, things started drying out just a tad, but still lots of standing water around in the lower areas. Rich stretched things out nicely riding his 29er SS, taking just a few of us along with him. I wasn't done having mishaps though. In the "Hero Section" near the end, I was a little beat down from 2.5hrs of riding rocks, and in a moment of sloppiness, I hit a tree on a sketchy descent. Might as well have matching banged up arms, right? Add cuts to my right elbow and skin off the knuckles to match road rash over lump on my left arm.

Last year I rode my Ellsworth dualie and did not crash. I did flat twice though, as I did not run tubeless on that bike. On my singlespeed used today, I ran the tubeless tires ridiculously low, something like 20 pounds in each tire. I felt the rear tire pinch out dozens of times, but never cut nor burped it. Gotta love those Panaracer Fire XC Pro's. Not the fastest rolling tire, but they hook up and hold up well in most conditions.

I was surprised to make it back in 10 minutes less riding time than last year. Felt way slower. The chili was ready, always a nice treat to cap off this ride. Could have used a lower gear. I ran a 32x18 ratio. I calculate my average cadence to be 57rpm. I wouldn't want my cadence dropping this low climbing the steepest mountain, let alone greasy technical singletrack. If it is wet again next year, I'll surely find something bigger to put on the back. Overall, it was a great ride on a day that turned out to be fantastic. It looked like the event was very well attended.

So now I'm not only licking fun-ride wounds, I have a full-blown head cold. Sucks. Probably picked it up at work, maybe that long van ride down to Long Island mid week. Who knows. Plenty of it going around. I've managed to go 22 months with zero illness. I think staying healthy through the hardest parts of training training and racing seasons says something about my rest and recovery approach. Hope I put this bug behind me in a few days. On Thursday, I fly down to Nashville for an extended weekend of riding. Plan to hit IMBA Epic material in Kentucky, Tennessee and maybe a big loop through Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. All of it will be new to me. Should be peak color in those parts by next weekend.


Big Bikes said...

Sorry we missed you (and that you damn near busted yerself!). We rode a bit on the later side. I drew some blood too, my buddy Glen put a big old dent in his helmet with a pointy rock...good stuff.

The tire thing is tough up there. Too high pressure, you can't rip the off-camber root stuff; too low and you're bottoming out on all the square edged rocks.

Get well.


Hill Junkie said...

Thom - I looked for ya. Definitely want to check out the GF geometry before making a decision on a 29er. I notice GF lists only the SS version available as a frame. Are hardtail framesets available too? I should swing by the shop one of these days.

Anonymous said...

Something else to consider for your 29":

Spot Longboard w/ belt drive. Couple guys i ride with in NJ have them. Def. my next rig. The bikes are great...and the belty drive is unstoppable.
Carbon + rocks = eventual disaster.