Sunday, January 22, 2017

Dirt is for riding, snow is for gliding

This winter is starting to look a lot like temperamental last winter. Bipolar temperature swings, rain and snow, unpredictable conditions for just about any outdoor activity. The White Mountains have been holding onto a decent snow base though, keeping the Nordic ski season alive for now. It would be nice to have reliable local snow for midweek skis, but I'll settle for weekend-only skis if conditions are good.

Keith, Skogs and myself at Waterville on January 21. Wet sticky snow, but good cover and still hammered out 40km in less than 3hrs.

What about riding? I avoid road as much as possible these days. Just can't stomach the risk anymore. Local trails alternate between too much snow, ice, mud and then back to snow. Seems like there is never a stable situation where any of the bikes I have will be fun. When the Cape got hammered with more than a foot of snow recently, I thought wonderful, now one of the last resort riding places in New England will be off-line for the rest of the season. But then it got crazy warm and the snow was gone in a few days.

When faced with having to get in the car to ride somewhere and given the choice between riding dirt or snow, dirt wins every time. It is so much more fun to ski snow than ride it. Sure, there are those rare days, maybe only a couple times a winter, where you get white asphalt trail conditions. And there are days where only a fat bike makes sense. That is why I built one up. But too often, winter riding is a luge run of ice or slog fest of slush or powder. On average, I typically go twice as far in the same time with skis on snow than with bike on snow. Isn't fast more fun? Plus I like the workout skiing provides. It is weight bearing and uses all the major muscle groups. The rhythmic movement puts you into a deeper flow state too. More intense endorphin buzz.

This weekend I could drive 90 minutes north and ski on good cover or drive 75 minutes south and ride dry singletrack. Best of both worlds, right? I thought about taking the fat bike up to the Whites and hitting a snowmobile loop, but temps suggested mashed potato conditions were likely. Instead, I hit Duxbury trails just south of Boston and conditions were mint! It is this diversity that makes living in New England such a blessing.

Riding out to Saquish and heading back to Gurnet Light at low tide, January 22. No Duxbury ride is complete without a beach cruise.

Looking north along the long sandbar. Solid one hour time-trial effort can be had by riding out to Saquish and back.

Open fresh water, bone dry trails in January. 40 miles in 3.3hrs. More please.

Of course, conditions are always great for hiking. I feel bad I didn't hike this weekend. Next weekend is an off-Friday weekend for me, so I'll have to hike double on one of the days.

For the last couple years, this poster has been on the wall of the changing room at the Waterville Valley Nordic Center. I didn't know who she was (Therese Johaug, accomplished Norwegian skier) or what it said. Was she taunting me, saying it's really only this big???  My Norwegian friend I skied with Saturday translated it for me below:

0.3 seconds

What can you actually do in 0.3 seconds?
You have time to sing “Let” in “Let it Be”
You might have time to say “cake” but not “piece of cake”
You don’t have time to yawn
You barely have time smile broadly
You certainly can’t laugh

But 0.3 seconds is more than enough to go from first to third place

I don't have to feel intimidated changing in front of the poster anymore.  The coming week looks even murkier for local midweek activities. There will be no snow to ski and trails will be a mess for riding. With any luck, maybe the weekend will come through with best of both worlds again.


Cameron Cogburn said...

Amen to that! Reading your blog is a big reason I ventured from just riding to also skiing and running. We all have our original and favorite activity, as well as ebbs & flows of motivation, but man, there is just so much out there.

Screwy weather for sure. This work week looks like running conditions for outdoor exercise, personally at least.

Jason said...

I continue to ride road exclusively. When you speak about risk, are you referring exclusively to that from cars? I feel quite confident in my riding abilities in that I’m not likely to crash when I’m the only factor involved but with cars there’s only so much a person can control unfortunately.

Do you ride highly trafficked roads? I go out of my way to go on the quietest roads possible but that admittedly doesn’t totally mitigate the risk. Just a couple of weeks ago, a woman pulled right out of her driveway into the street despite my approaching AND a car right behind me. I just made it past her and the car behind me laid on his horn to finally make her stop.

I just don’t have the time to drive to far away locations. The huge advantage of road riding is that it can be done right out the front door. I hear you though. If/when circumstances change for me, I may diversify.

Michael Scott Long said...

Where I live (Ellensburg, WA), it doesn't snow much. At the same time, for about 6 weeks or so it stays cold enough that the snow doesn't melt. The end effect is that there's usually not a think layer of slush on the local trails; just a thin layer of snow. Sort of like biking sandy trails.

Hill Junkie said...

Jason - yes, cars, especially when riding alone. Racing on road is a whole different issue, where testosterone and competitiveness make for bad crashes that are mostly out of your control. Some of my scariest encounters with motorists were on back roads. I had rednecks harass me for several miles one time out in the boonies of Bedford, NH. Had guy get out of his car and threaten me on residential road near work another time. On the Kanc, a roofing company driver nearly struck three of us in separate passings spread out over a couple miles. He was reported and lost his company driving privileges. These were all deliberate hostility. There were several other very close calls where people just didn't see me. A semi that came within inches at 40-50mph, a pickup whose side mirror went over my shoulder, a left turning woman that very nearly killed me not 0.5mi from office. She was in too big of a hurry to get to the YMCA on her lunch break that oncoming cyclist just didn't register. These all happened in the last few years I was regularly riding road. I actually feel more comfortable on busy roads I sometimes ride by work. People are more likely to paying attention and there are shoulders to ride on. Hyper-vigilance is still required though. Fortunately, I'm two miles from large and growing MTB trail network, so a bit of road gets me right into the woods where I can ride an hour without worrying about getting hit by a car. There are other risks, but you have much more control over them, and I mentally have accepted those risks, which makes riding more enjoyable. If I didn't have this trail network nearby, I would still be putting in a lot of road miles.

Jason said...

I remember reading about some of those incidents in your blog. I never knew about the one with the pickup and the side mirror. I haven’t come close to having anything similar to the problems you’ve had. I guess I’ve just been lucky to have logged about 43,000 miles with nothing too egregious. I usually do about 10 rides in northern NE per year. Most of my riding is in MA so maybe the rednecks aren’t as bad here.

I agree with what you’ve said about road injuries likely to be more catastrophic than trail injuries though the odds of a trail injury are greater. I don’t race and though the idea of it entices me, I just can’t justify the risks to both body and bike.

Cameron Cogburn said...

Unfortunately, I do think NH is uniquely dangerous for road riding. The two main things I see are: 1) An implicit and explicit culture of disrespect towards cycling. 2) Road structure: low road density & quality for the terrain and population but an abundance of high speed secondary roads with either no space, or if there is space, no rumble strips to protect from an errant driver doing 55 mph (if doing the speed limit...).

For #1 I've had a car of teenagers throw change at the Exeter group ride I was in. Fortunately someone called the police and they were caught.

For #2 I think warming-up to simply ride up Pack Monadnock is a perfect example of the challenges faced. Unfortunately I don't really know how this one can be fixed aside from better off-road trails and paths such that road riding is not really necessary.

Anonymous said...

Each type of biking has risks. In last 3 years I've almost gotten hit 3x by atv, 1x by snowmobile, had a rifle pointed at me by a hunter, and come f2f with a fully pulled compound bow.

Hill Junkie said...

I work with a redneck from Maine who takes great pleasure harassing MTBers when he encounters them on "his" trails. We've had many spirited discussions on the subject. A former redneck from Michigan myself, I understand the mindset. It's scary. But maybe familiarity takes some of the edge off the fear factor.