Sunday, April 7, 2013

Frigid Bits and Shakedown Ride

I seem to have a knack for dragging other people to the coldest places to ride when the weather is just fine back home. This happened last week in North Carolina with Arik. I've had Tucson and Colorado trips where I caused others to freeze (usually DaveP).

This past Saturday was no exception. Dave and I planned a couple days earlier to ride the Kanc and Gonzo Pass. I did offer an out, riding local trails instead, mostly for selfish reason. I really wanted to hop on my new trail bike. But Dave said no, long climbs would do our bodies good. How could I disagree with that?

Saturday morning arrives, and it is barely above 20F in Lincoln, NH. Plus it was windier than heck. The windchill was ridiculous.  We thought about bailing, but having met in Manchester with bikes in cars, we followed through with our earlier decision.

Putting shoes on at the White Mtn visitor center nearly put both of us into hypothermia. The descents were going to SUCK! At the visitor center, the temp was 24F, winds gusting to 35mph, with 14F windchill.  It was much colder at the passes.

Heading up Gonzo Pass, we had no choice but to go hard to stop shivering and getting feeling back in our extremities. The road was in deplorable shape, I think worse than had it just been gravel. Deep longitudinal cracks, massive frost heaves, deep divots and sand. The descent was going to be a long, drawn out process.

Cracked, heaved, sanded pavement on Gonzo Pass (Rt 118)

I managed to just barely get warm by the summit. Since Gonzo (Rt 118) is more sheltered than the Kanc (Rt 112), we decided to descend the west side and come back up. What a pain in the ass. Had to ride the brakes the whole way down, no way to let your speed run out if you valued your wheels and your life.  About 18 minutes of zero to near zero power going downhill had me frozen to the bone again. Turn around. Rinse. Repeat.

At least the crisp air afforded nice views of the Franconia ridgeline and Mt Washington on the right.

Dave runs on slow twitch and doesn't produce at much excess heat as I do, so he had even more trouble staying warm. I'd still like some of that slow twitch muscle he has. Dave said he was going to bail after getting back over the hump and I could do the Kanc on my own while he waited. Hmmm, misery always goes by more quickly with company.

Getting back down to Lincoln, it was a little warmer. With the wind to our backs, Dave caved and decided to go to the top and turn around. I was good with that. We had planned to go over and back up the other side, but with the wind and bulked up with full winter gear, we weren't exactly setting a blazing pace. At least when we descended this third time, we could get warm and stay warm.

Still a lot of snow at Kancamagus Pass.

We finished with almost 60 miles and 6200ft of climbing. Was probably the second coldest I've gotten riding, the coldest being when Dave and I attempted to ride Mt Evans in Colorado when rain, snow and sleet moved in. We both got dangerously cold that day.

Sunday proved to be much warmer, at least closer to home. I took my new Santa Cruz Tallboy out for a "shakedown" ride. Reports came back that Willowdale was dry. I've been honing a loop there over the last couple years and planned to expand on it a bit.

Heading out on the BCT singletrack, I was immediately struck with how plush the new ride was. I could barely feel roots. The big 29" wheels coupled with 5+" of front and rear travel leveled all but the biggest bumps.

The next thing I noticed was how low the bottom bracket seemed to be. I did have a lot of sag set in the rear shock, but I think the geometry has a low BB, which I like. It helps with stability and climbing steep grades. It does mean you have to be a little more careful with pedals in rock gardens.

As with my Superfly 29er, the Tallboy climbed extremely well. Out of saddle mashing did result in a little wallow. No surprise there with 5" of squish. Front and rear suspension both have three settings. Fox calls it CTD for climb, trail, descend. The climb setting locks out the shock. Great for long fire road or paved ascents.

The bike also seemed very nimble. My biggest concern was it would handle like a school bus with its longish wheelbase. The Tallboy wheelbase is about 45". My 29er Superfly hardtail has a 44.5" wheelbase. Half an inch is not much difference when so much travel has been added to the bike, with a relaxed head angle too. My 4" travel 26" Titus Racer-X has a 43" wheelbase, which is significantly shorter and makes that bike so much more flickable in tight quarters. I was very please with Tallboy handling in tight quarters.

As I hit more and more variety of familiar terrain, I couldn't think of anything that needed adjustment on the bike. It performed flawlessly, right out of the box. Shifting, brakes, saddle, even the suspension seemed dialed. I felt like I was flying, but I was sure the smoothness of the bike was tricking me, as my legs were pretty tired from the mountains the day before.

A drop just out of view in Geortown-Rowley SF.

I continued my ride through Georgetown-Rowley State Forest. I crossed paths with another rider who pointed me to freshly minted singletrack, as in it looked like it literally was raked out that morning. I also hit a lengthy section of new-to-me singletrack on the west side of I-95. This brought my mileage up to 50 miles when I got back to the car. After uploading to Strava, I realized that was the fastest I had ridden this loop. I certainly didn't feel like was going any harder. I can only surmise the bike lets me carry more momentum through choppy bits.

50 miles and barely a spot of mud. Two weeks ago there was over a foot of snow on the ground.

Plush, agile, climbs well, improved fuel economy in rough terrain, what's not to like? This bike will be good for... everything! The dilemma I'm faced with now is I won't want to ride my other trail bikes.

1 comment:

the bully said...

I found the s-fly would just beat me to death. It's a great climber but so are the new refined duallys. Sounds like u got a keeper. No downhill segment is safe anymore. Sigh...