Sunday, May 31, 2015

Muggy White Mountains Adventure

As a final "training" ride for the Wilmington-Whiteface 100k next weekend, I wanted to do something comparable on Saturday. Not a bury myself, perpetuating the hole I constantly keep myself in kind of ride, but something fun with just the right amount of training stress. The southern fringe of the White Mountains offer some sustained non-technical climbs with minimal to no traffic. One of my favorite segments in all of the White Mountains to integrate into a loop is Sandwich Notch/Algonquin Road. Sandwich Notch is a seasonal forest service road that gains 1000ft on rough gravel, and Algonquin Rd is an even rougher gated logging road that follows the Beebe River.

Keith Button is training for some ultra endurance events coming up soon too, a few 100 mile MTB races. Keith thought a climby, semi-off road loop in the Whites sounded like a good idea for a humid day.

Starting out, Keith asked about how long of a warmup we'll get before the first climb. Um, that just was the warmup! My sadistic route heads right up Campton Mtn. I had reasonably fresh legs and wanted to hit the first two climbs slightly anaerobic, then back off a little for the rest of the ride.

Campton Mtn has some exceedingly steep pitches near the top, nearing 20% grade. The way I saw it, the "easy" 10% first half was the warmup for the upper section. That felt pretty good.The climb is mostly paved, the descent mostly gravel on almost as steep gradients. That was a quick 1200ft of climbing.

With barely a breather in between, Sandwich Notch is attacked next. The paved start quickly gives way to rough jeep road gravel further up. Again, there are several upper-teens pitches on this 1000ft climb. I waited for Keith a bit at the top, and when he appeared, sounds were coming from his drive train that should never come from a drive train. His chain was failing. Well, at least it didn't interrupt a good climb.

Fortunately, I brought my Camelbak on this hot day, where I carry everything but the kitchen sink. I had spare Shimano 9spd pins and chain breaker. A link on his Shimano chain looked like maybe it was mis-stamped. A pin didn't hold. Pushing the pin out was challenging because the link was a little bent and the pin wasn't lining up to push out. My sweet all-stainless Lezyne chain tool broke. SOB! Now what? Best option at the time seemed to be to push the bent over plate back on the existing pin in the chain and pray it holds. You generally can't get away with this anymore since Shimano changed their design many years ago. You must use a new pin. It seemed to work, but Keith is a big guy and can put out mad Watts.

Two-thirds of the back-stop broke away. Images of new versions of this tool show
Lezyne greatly beefed up this area. Not a cheap tool. Hoping Lezyne will send me
this replacement piece.

After rolling along many miles of back gravel roads, we came to a cut-through I wanted to explore. The Strava Heat Map was lightly lit up, so I knew people were riding it. Was it only in winter on groomed snowmobile trails? On MTBs because terrain is so rough? Only one way to find out.

It starts as Town Farm Rd, a barely used logging road. As the grade steepened, so did the roughness. It was fully rideable on cross bikes though. As we reached the high point, the "road" was barely there, more like a singletrack down what may have been a logging route a century ago. Cool riding, but the few stream crossing were too much to risk riding through on cross bikes. Some very slow going through this two mile section, but worth checking out. I probably wouldn't ride this on a cross bike again, but would love to find a way to work into one of my MTB loops in the area.

Crossing under I-93 brought us to the next climb, Bog Road. It is gravel most of the way up and all the way down, quite choppy because a very large aggregate gravel is laid down on much of it. Perfect for cross bikes.

Heading up Stinson Rd to the lake, Keith's chain let go again. We got this far by just pushing the plate back on the pin, so we thought why not try that again. We had just this one climb left.  But no. It failed almost right away again. There went my Strava  score! Actually, I don't give a shit about that anymore. This time, we had to figure out how to use my broken tool to remove links and put a new pin in. Wasn't easy. I also carry a small pliers. A pliers with the tool were enough to hold the chain together while pushing a pin in. Surprised the remaining nub left on the tool didn't crack off.

The descent back to Campton on paved Ellsworth Rd was brutal. This used to be a 50+mph rip, but now the road is so busted up that even on cross bikes with 38mm tires, you don't dare let your speed run out.

It was seriously hot at lower elevations as we finished. I was thinking a dip in the Mad River would be a perfect way to cap off a fine ride. We finished the 100k loop in 4.6hrs with 6800ft of climbing.

Keith topping out on Sandwich Notch with barely holding together chain.

Algonquin Rd along the Beebe River

Town Farm "Road"

Keith descending back side of Town Farm "Road"

Stream crossing on Town Farm

Instant post ride cool-down in the Mad River


Anonymous said...

Alqonquin always seems better on a hard tail to me, but maybe I am just getting soft. Cool loop, never pieced all those bits together like you did, psyched to try. Dearth of black flies this year thanks to a hot dry May. Not sad about that..Keep 'em rolling

Hill Junkie said...

Agree with hardtail on Algonquin Rd. I've ridden Algonquin at least 10 times now, half of them on hardtail. Kind of pins and needles waiting for pinch flat to happen on cross bike, but hardtail with tubeless setup you can rip with reckless abandon. Hardtail would have been a net burden I think for the whole route.

DaveP said...

I can't make up my mind on which one I like better.

HJ - You were expecting this, so I delivered.

Todd said...

Sounds like a lot of work replacing pins on Shimano chains. Have you ever used Sram chains with the easy to install master links?

Hill Junkie said...

Yep. I broke a lot of master links. I avoid SRAM chains today because of that. Normally, Shimano pins are almost as fast and easy. If you damage any chain, you still need a chain tool to remove links.

Paul said...

They made a *tool* out of stainless steel?? Seriously??

With what they charge for their stuff, you'd think that Lezyne could afford to hire *someone* with an engineering degree.

Hill Junkie said...

I often throw a tool in jersey pocket on road, plus I ride messy salty roads in winter. I got sick of tools rusting up to beyond unusable. Didn't matter if they were shiny chrome plated. Didn't last long. This Lezyne tool is several years old with nary a hit of corrosion.

I contacted Lezyne about the failure, noting it seemed to be a design defect, as the revised tool was beefed up in fracture area. I got immediate response that a replacement piece is in the mail. I did not expect that, as the tool is beyond warranty period and I did not have a receipt. So kudos to Lezyne for standing behind their product.

Philip Brandish said...

Hey sounds like a blast. Can you post the route or a link to the route?