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.

1 comment:

rick is! said...

if you keep this up you're going to have to change your percentages in your profile. 80% roadie? I think not!