SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19, Social Distancing, and the Outdoors

I’m sitting at home right now, roughly a week after statewide restrictions began in North Carolina. I’ve been substitute teaching lately, and Governor Cooper closed all schools until March 30th. The school where I’ve been working has spring break after that until April 12th, so I’ve had a lot of free time on my hands.

I took advantage of some of that time to get out and ride, and last weekend, DuPont State Forest was pretty empty.

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As restrictions have mounted, the trails have become even more busy. Social media pages/groups are awash with accounts of many trailheads being busier than they’ve ever been. I know it might seem like going into the woods is a great idea, but this is just stupid. Asheville, NC isn’t exactly a big city, and reports are that a great deal of the vehicles at the trailheads have out-of-state license plates.

This is not the time to make big road trips. Stay the f*ck home. Mountain towns don’t have the facilities to handle the local COVID-19 cases, local emergencies that aren’t stopping because of a global pandemic, AND your idiocy. The residents of tourist towns don’t need you bringing more cases of COVID-19 than they already have. Teton Gravity posted their own PSA about this issue.

The Eastern Band of the Cherokee have closed all public access areas, including the Fire Mountain Trails.

In fact, the first case of COVID-19 in Buncombe County was actually a visitor from New York, who most likely spread the disease around before developing symptoms and self quarantining. The first case in a resident was announced today.

I have reached the conclusion that attempting to ride my mountain bike on the trails like usual is selfish and irresponsible given the global pandemic. I have been using the extra time at home to get some work done around the house. I got my deck power washed, for example. Getting ready to paint it. I’ve had a live stream guitar lesson via Zoom with an old college friend. The house is cleaner than it’s been in a long time. I have plenty more to do.

Sure, I am still riding my bike. Given the crowding on local trails, though, I am riding at home. I’m doing skills drills in the neighborhood. I might even build a little trail in my yard once I get my yard work done.

Before you berate me for my decisions, remember that I’m a cancer survivor. I’m still somewhat immunocompromised. Other cancer survivors are being hit hard by this virus (1). I also happen to have an A group blood type, which has been linked to poorer outcomes from COVID-19 infection. I may be relatively young, but I am high risk. I am one of those people who doesn’t want to catch this virus if he can avoid it.

If you think your risk of catching the disease is low, so you’ve decided to ignore most of the precautions, I will reiterate that this is about spreading the disease to OTHER people, less so about yourself.

Another thing about being a cancer survivor trained me well for this. When I was going through cancer treatment, I was socially isolated for about 9 months. I wasn’t entirely locked away the whole time, but I did have to take notable precautions when I did go out. Far stricter than what we’re all being asked to do right now, except for maybe folks in Italy and other countries that have gone on full lockdown in an attempt to contain this pathogen.

I have a feeling that this is going to hit the United States hard…more akin to Italy than to South Korea or even Singapore. And a large part of it has to do with people treating this like spring break (1)(2)(3)(4). Just don’t. Exercise some restraint. Definitely go outside, but avoid crowds. I know that might be difficult, but a walk around the neighborhood works just as well.

Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventure Race (PMBAR) 2018

Before you go any farther, realize that this isn’t your typical PMBAR race recap post. No way I’m fit enough for that event. I did volunteer to run the Sassafras Gap checkpoint for the race, however. The checkpoint was far enough “out there” that I needed to camp at least on Saturday night, and then pack out on Sunday morning. I opted to camp Friday night, also, since I’m not so much of a morning person, and I wouldn’t have to get going at 4am to be at my checkpoint by race start time.


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Considering the location, I had 2 main access options. Shortest would have been to hike down from the Blue Ridge Parkway (bikes are not permitted on trails in Parkway land). I could have hiked my bike through, but it would have meant dealing with some of the steepest and chunkiest terrain in that area, with a loaded bike. Meh, no interest in that. Hiking that route was the better option. The more bikeable option was to park at the bottom of the Laurel Mtn Trail on Yellow Gap Rd. and ride up. It’s over 5mi of fairly consistent climbing from Yellow Gap Rd., but the grades are much more reasonable, and the terrain is far less chunky. That was the option I went with, since I’ve been itching to bikepack in the area since I moved down here last summer, and this was a good excuse.

Unfortunately, all I’ve got from my ride out is my GPS track. My phone is on the outs, and I’ve been putting off buying a new one until higher priorities are addressed. So of course, my phone deleted all of my photos from Friday. Yay.

Sassafras Gap makes for a pretty nice campsite, fwiw. The site was marked well with orange flagging tape with the promoter’s logo on it, as well as a Marmot tent, check-in gear, and a first aid kit in the event that racers need some help. Sassafras Gap is pretty level with open forest, and a really nice, soft soil. It’s a great spot for ground camping, since there aren’t many rocks to poke you in the back. There’s a fire ring built there already, though I never bothered to use it.

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This was my first bikepacking trip, honestly. I learned a few things. For one, I think the Salsa Bucksaw works pretty darn well as a bikepacking bike. I didn’t want to fiddle with my suspension air pressures for this relatively short trip, so I totally locked out the rear suspension, and cranked down the compression damping on my fork. This kept the tires from rubbing on the bags (especially the Revelate handlebar harness) as the suspension compressed. Having fat tires for this was truly a godsend. Laurel Mtn Trail isn’t super chunky, but it does have quite a bit of smaller chunk, and the fat tires worked especially well for it.

The Bucksaw handled well with bags on it. My dropper post was off to Thomson for service (after 2.5yrs of flogging, it finally needed some TLC), so my only option was to run a rigid post. It’s honestly the best way with a bag that straps around the post, to avoid rubbing/scratching of the stanchion. I felt a little topheavy so my handling wasn’t perfect, but that is more due to the heavier-than-I-wanted pack I carried. A few reasons for the heavy backpack. First, I rode without a frame bag. I’ll probably get one eventually, but that’s a fairly high cost item relative to the amount of storage space it would actually give me on my medium FS frame. I had the Revelate Viscacha seat bag already, but I had to buy a handlebar harness for this trip as it was. Second, since I was going to be camped atop a ridge above 4,000ft all weekend, and I wasn’t sure how far away the nearest water source would be, I chose to pack 6L of water out for the whole weekend. And finally, I needed more storage space in order to fit the race organizer’s gear on the way out.

I slept in my ENO Doublenest hammock with Warbonnet bugnet and Guide Gear 12×12 tarp. At this point, it’s my strongly preferred lightweight sleep setup. The forecast did call for some storms Saturday afternoon/evening/overnight, so the big tarp was definitely part of my plans. Even though it’s bulky and has some weight to it, it’s really worth it when the weather is rowdy.

On race day (Saturday), it was mostly overcast, though the sun did peek out a few times early on. The first racers didn’t show up until just before 1pm, so I had several hours of mostly downtime beforehand. One guy hiked up the social spur trail nearby (racers weren’t permitted to use that one) looking confused. Turned out, he was meeting a buddy to hang out at a different checkpoint and he made a couple wrong turns and wound up at Sassafras Gap. Lots of extra climbing for him, unfortunately. I sent him back down the way he came in order to catch the key turn he missed.

Also saw a group of several backpackers heading down from Turkey Springs along the Parkway. This is the second group of backpackers I’ve seen carrying WAY TOO MUCH weight. This group looked like mostly teens, with the leader possibly younger college-aged. They were mostly carrying pretty large packs on their back, and a few even had pretty large daypacks hung over their chests, I suppose in part to balance the heavy packs on their backs. But holy smokes, I just couldn’t be comfortable with that. I think my first backpacking trip, I carried maybe 45lbs, and that was too much. I’ve since pared down to what I suspect is a sub-30lb total weight.

Speaking of which, I cut some weight on this trip with some adjustments to my water treatment. Ever since this ride, I’ve been wanting to add a light gravity filtration setup.

My MSR Miniworks EX works well when I have to pump from tiny sources, but it’s heavy and pumping sucks. When water is plentiful, I wanted a lighter, faster method. I never got to test the filtration part of it. I filled the new Platypus Hoser bladder (which will be my “dirty” bladder) with fresh water for my extra 3L for this trip.

At around 9am or so, when I was making my breakfast and coffee, I heard quite a commotion in the brush behind me some distance. I turned around and stood on a log for a better vantage, and looked for a few minutes to try to identify the source. Turns out, a smallish black bear was the source of that crashing. First I only caught a glimpse of black behind some trees, but it eventually came out into a more open area where I got a clear view for a fraction of a second. It was absolutely hauling ass. I like to think it caught a whiff of my BO and ran for the hills. No time even for a picture attempt. It’s the first bear I’ve seen in the area since moving here (but it’s definitely not the first black bear I’ve seen in the woods).

That sighting kept me on my toes regarding food security for the rest of the weekend. I brought my ursack with OP saks, and it turns out, that may have been unnecessary. When the racers started showing up later in the day, I noticed that they were dropping a lot of trail mix and whatnot while they fueled up for the next leg of their race. At that point, I really felt like my own attempts to keep my food secure were kinda moot. I don’t think I had any other visits from large wildlife over the weekend.

Aside from those few events, I got pretty bored while I waited for the racers to show up. I had grand plans of bringing a small solar-powered radio along, so I’d have some tunes. But during my gear checks before leaving, I learned that the solar panel was dead. The hand crank worked to give the radio a charge, but I wasn’t going to spend all day cranking so I could enjoy some music. And I didn’t want to bring my ipod and portable bluetooth speaker, since I was pretty sure I’d drain the batteries before the day was over, and I didn’t really have a good way to keep them charged long enough. A small, portable solar panel would be useful in situations like this…but how often would I be using it? Infrequently enough that I have a hard time justifying the purchase.

So, I wound up taking quite a few pictures of wildflowers and insects and such. Of course, my phone deleted a bunch of it (including some recordings of bird songs I wanted to revisit for identification when I got home). So only a few made it.

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Black cohosh

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The first several racers into the checkpoint were pretty serious bidness. Check in, quick bite, and back on the course. As the day rolled on, racers lingered a bit, and I started seeing some gaps between teammates, as one rider was stronger than the other. Those teams definitely lingered longer, so that they could recover a bit before getting back on the course. Later teams also spent a bit more time strategizing about their approach to their next checkpoint(s). Maps came out, conversations ensued. Some teams made questionable decisions with race-brain. You can read a pretty entertaining account of one team’s race here. I get an honorable mention near the end of Part 1 of their race recap.

Most of the riders hit the Sassafras Gap checkpoint between probably 1:30pm and 2:30pm, with teams coming in at a trickle after that. The last team rolled in right as I was boiling water for dinner at 5:30pm. Makes me curious how they finished.

Right after the last team left and I got my food rehydrated, the rain started. It was kinda light and steady at first, but then became spotty for awhile. It got a touch cool out, so I climbed into my hammock early, mostly to get out of the rain. I browsed my bird field guide (iBird Pro Android app) trying to identify some bird calls for awhile before I got sleepy enough to nod off. I was awakened sometime in the middle of the night by occasional thunder and some heavier rain. I stayed pretty cozy in my hammock, but it took me awhile to fall back asleep.

It was pretty brisk when I woke up in the morning, but it was clear and sunny and the birds were pretty active. It was an absolutely gorgeous morning. None of my pics can do it justice.

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After breakfast and coffee, I started packing up camp. It took me awhile, because I had some extra gear to deal with. I found a millipede “friend” while collecting my things.

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I had to organize things a little bit differently this time. Instead of 6L of water, I was down to about 1.5L-2L. Most of my food was also eaten, so all I had from that was some fairly light (but somewhat bulky) trash. But instead of those things, I had a surprisingly bulky tent, extra first aid kit (I ride with one of my own), clipboard, and timing chip scanner. The organizer’s tent didn’t fit very well in my back, so I wound up packing that in my handlebar harness along with my sleeping pad. My down quilt (which was on the harness on the way up) ended up going into my pack with the clipboard and trash. Hammock kit went into the seat bag, same as before. The extra couple pounds on the handlebar harness seemed to make the bike handle a little more balanced.

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Being largely downhill, the riding was pretty easy. I still had to walk some of the weird rocky seep sections because I was topheavy, but no big. It was a super relaxing morning ride. It was incredibly beautiful out there that morning.

The overnight rain, if anything, improved trail conditions. They were pretty dusty on Friday on my ride up, and the racers continually mentioned that the dustiness made the trails a touch sketchy on Saturday. The rain made the trail surface just a bit tacky. Spots that were muddy (around seeps) on Friday were still muddy, and the rain didn’t make anything muddy that was dry on Friday. Just a perfect amount of rain, IMO.

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Again, the bike handled great when loaded. Being a little more familiar with the handling, I rode quite a few more technical spots that I walked on my climb up Laurel. Log-overs were super easy. It was just a great ride. There was a couple about to climb up Laurel when I reached my car at Yellow Gap. I let them know the condition of the trail, and informed them that I cleared all the spiders off going all the way to Sassafras Gap. I think they were appreciative.

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Overall, I had a great time volunteering for the event. The racers all had great attitudes throughout the day. I brought a little bit of food for handups, and the racers were pretty appreciative. It was just about enough, and in light of that, I’m glad I was running an optional checkpoint instead of a mandatory one. If I was mandatory, I’d have probably needed twice as much food, I think. If I do this again, though, I think I’ll put some more effort into finding friends to hang out in camp with me, rather than sitting around solo all day Saturday.

French Lick Resort

Yesterday the wife and I traveled to French Lick, IN to try out the mountain bike trails on the resort.

The verdict: Win.

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It was a relatively short ride because both of us have been working hard this summer, and not riding nearly enough. These trails are climby, and they kicked our butts. On the plus side, we finished our ride with a 2+mi downhill which was well worth all the climbing earlier.

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You know what else characterizes these trails? Rocks. And tech.

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But there’s also plenty of beautiful woodland trail and some non-technical areas where you can take a bit of a breather.

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I had some wildlife sightings. Didn’t get any pics of the many deer, but this box turtle wanted to play chicken with me on the trail. It won.

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The trail passes along several really cool rock ledges.

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One of them houses a waterfall. Word to the wise, the rocks used to armor the trail beneath the waterfall are treacherous. A guy riding ahead of me had crashed in this area and really messed up his shoulder. At least he was riding with his wife, who could help him off the trail. Another group of riders also lended assistance by bringing a truck up to a spot where the trail comes close to a road.

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There are some beautiful wildflowers this time of year.

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You can’t see this bike because it’s a Blur (of the Santa Cruz variety).

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More rock ledges.

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Did I mention that the wet rocks are treacherous? Thankfully, no wives were injured in this photo.

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Free showers are available to riders using the trails, so we took full advantage and decided to check out the historic West Baden Springs Resort. Former presidents, movie stars, and gangsters have visited this hotel.

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Great ride on some really tough trails. The “Easiest” trail would easily be labeled “Intermediate” somewhere like Brown County State Park. The “More Difficult” trail would definitely compare to something like Walnut there, except with different character. There’s quite a bit more loose rock at French Lick. The rock ledges are also a unique feature.

Summer Rides

Fitting regular rides in along with working two jobs and significant volunteer commitments tends to leave the website feeling neglected.

How about some pixels, some words, and some GPS tracks to make us happy?

Even though I only had one day off over the July 4th weekend, I managed to squeeze in a couple rides.  On July 4th, the wife and I made our first trip to Rangeline Nature Preserve in Anderson.

We kept to the “novice” and “intermediate” trails for the day.  Even the novice stuff isn’t true beginner trail.  There are some techy spots that would have a true beginner rider walking.  It’s definitely no Camp Glenn.

First, a word of note. Rangeline Nature Preserve is currently in jeopardy. The proposed Mounds Lake Reservoir would flood much of RNP and effectly destroy the trail system for the sake of “flood control” and “drinking water”. There is some debate about whether it would effectively address those concerns. The Friends of the White River share some information about this proposal.

There is a pretty cool skills park right near the parking lot at RNP. There are skinnies, whoops, creative technical challenges, and articulating obstacles. Nothing is terribly high off the ground presenting high risk of injury, but be sure to inspect the woodwork before you ride. Some of the older structures are in need of repair. You will notice that some structures have recently been rebuilt, also. It does get maintained, but it’s a work in progress.

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Out on the trails, you’ll find the surface varies from crushed stone/fine gravel to sand to hardpack, and even a few sections with cobbles thrown in for good measure. This system probably has the most varied trail surface of any in the state. It makes traction an interesting proposition.

Obstacles on the trail can be pretty cool. This one is made from a cut, hollow log turned into a ramp.

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This one is reminiscent of a bathtub. It’s easy to roll up into, but the hard turn to the left (or right, for the advanced line) is tricky. I didn’t make it this time, but I’ll figure it out. Probably sooner if I can watch someone else clean it first.

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Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife crossing the trail. This gal crossed in front of me on my second lap.

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All-in-all, a fun trail system. I’ll have to try out some of the advanced sections on my next visit. I mangled my derailleur hanger in the skills park 5min after arriving, and had to bend it back by hand. I didn’t want to push it too hard and really wreck my bike.

On Sunday, the 6th, I managed to squeeze in a ride at Fort Harrison State Park after work.

I felt really good on this ride, and my wife was really hauling. Her time at the Midwest Women’s MTB Clinic really helped her out. She attempted the log skinny on Lawrence Creek for the first time today. After several unsuccessful attempts, she got onto it and stayed on for about half its length. We think she was so surprised that she finally found the right line, that she surprised herself clean off the log. Haha.

I was feeling a little daring that day, too. I have avoided the pillbox on Schoen because of the rusty rebar poking out of it. And rightfully so. With my medical history, riding this anything but perfectly could be seriously dangerous for me. I was feeling good, though, so I gave it a go. My first attempt was unsuccessful, but I almost got it. I gave it another try, this time with a little more speed, and cleaned it pretty easily. With speed (and even with wimpy 26″ wheels), my bike just rolled right up it. I went one more time for the photo op, and cleaned it a second time, also.

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Great ride. Would have done two complete laps, but we were pushing park closure time. To finish before the gates closed, we’d have had to hammer our second full lap at least as fast as our first, and the wife’s legs were feeling cooked from pushing herself on our first lap. Her second would have been a fair bit slower.

I’m working a little extra this summer, saving up for a Salsa Bucksaw.

Bucksaw 2

This bike was most excellently announced officially on the 5 year anniversary of my remission. Secondly, I could use a new trail bike as the one I currently ride is 11yrs old. I’ve been upgrading components regularly over the years because the frame is a decent platform, but if I was to crack the frame, Spesh’s “lifetime” warranty on the frame would get me a frame in a wheelsize I don’t want, and couldn’t use my components on. But, I also really WANT a fat bike. The wife’s not thrilled with me getting two new mountain bikes, so this bike fills both categories. A year-round, trail-worthy fat bike. Third, if you haven’t noticed, I kinda have a yellow mountain bike thing.

I’ve been riding yellow mountain bikes for 14 years. Here was my first yellow bike. It’s sorta my thing, and it’d be cool to continue it.

Diamondback Topanga Comp

Neither of the stock Bucksaws is really spec’d how I’d like, so rather than buying the frameset (which only comes in blue – boo), I’ll buy the less expensive complete bike and swap the components I don’t want. First, the dropper post is going. I’ve never felt like I needed one. My arms are long enough that I can get behind my saddle without any trouble at all. I also don’t like 750mm bars. I also want a 1x drivetrain, but SRAM’s 1×11 is way too expensive. I really like Race Face’s Cinch convertible crankset. I’d set it up as a 1x with a spiderless chainring, and stay 10spd for now and keep the shifter and rear derailleur, modifying the cassette with one of the gear range expansion kits on the market, like maybe Wolftooth’s 42t cog or something else that’d do the same job.

I really want to make use of one of the tubeless wheelset options out or coming soon for fat bikes. I’m not sure I have the budget for carbon rims, though. So I think I’ll just use the stock wheels for awhile, consider my upgrade options, and save some money for that upgrade option. I think I’d also swap the Guide R brakes for some Shimanos. XT or maybe even XTR.

I figure that with the early mods I have planned, I could drop some weight from the stock bike. I’d probably be able to lose some more on the wheelset later, especially if I can save enough for a carbon tubeless set of rims.

I’m looking forward to this bike and can’t wait to place my order.

Snow Ride! Freezing!

That title fits this tune pretty well.

It only sorta fit my ride. The temps outside were indeed freezing, but I was mostly fine. Except for my feet. I really need some winter cycling boots (a half size big so I can fit thick wool socks in them). I wore some Gore-tex ski gloves with Smartwool liners, a Buff under my helmet, Smartwool lightweight base layer, my EMS Windstopper N2S jacket, and my hardshell gear (Marmot Precip jacket and Mountain Hardwear Epic rain pants). I was warm enough to be sweating underneath, but as long as I kept moving, I stayed warm.

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It was far from my fastest ride of the year. But that’s snow riding for you. I rode in my middle ring for awhile, but decided I’d rather just drop to my granny ring for the ride, and just run lower on my cassette, so I wouldn’t have to shift up front at all. I’ve had some shifting problems in winters past due to Shimano’s lube getting gummy. Last winter, I cleaned out my shifter pods and relubed them with Paul’s Tenacious Oil. The local shops suggested using Triflow, but I wanted something that would stay put and reduce the chances of being contaminated by moisture.

The Tenacious Oil did the trick. The only thing about this stuff is that it’s fairly viscous, and only becomes moreso in cold temps. Today’s ride was in the low 10’s (started around 11F and was around 18F by the time I got home), and there was more resistance to shifting. BUT, my shifters worked flawlessly. All my shifts were crisp, and I felt the shifters engage every time. Not bad for nearly 11 year old shifters.

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I was the first biker in the lot this morning. I wanted to meet up with a group, but none of them were there at the announced time. I picked a parking lot and geared up, seeing nobody erlse, so I set out on my own, not wanting to freeze while waiting for people who may or may not have chickened out. There were a handful of trail runners out already, and by the looks of the tracks in the snow, at least one hiker who I never saw.

On part of the Schoen Creek Trail, I got to put down the first tracks in the fresh snow (freshies!). A coyote had started walking on the bridge, but turned around before completing the crossing. Mine were the first human tracks of the morning.

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Overall, I had a good ride. The bridges were like ice, and they were the only place where studs would have been helpful. One bridge is on a 10% grade, and I just couldn’t get it under today’s conditions. Otherwise, I rode everything. I got through the two major rock gardens without issue. I was slipping a little on some of the roots, but nothing that forced me to go down. The Conti X-Kings provided ample traction for today’s ride. Many local riders go with a more aggressive tire starting in the fall so get more grip in the loose leaves and in the snow, but the X-Kings have been solid for me in leaves and snow so far. There wasn’t much snow on the trails today, admittedly. The ground was warm when the snow started falling, and melted most of the snow that landed on bare soil. I don’t think the trails actually froze until last night when the temps dropped. With more snow on the ground, I may want a more aggressive tire.

I DEFINITELY need winter boots, though. I covered my shoes with Gorilla Tape to close off the mesh vents, but it wasn’t good enough. These shoes only fit comfortably in the thinnest of socks, so I cannot wear warm wool socks in the winter without cutting off my circulation and making matters worse. I wore a pair of running socks with a little more cushion than I usually wear in these shoes and my feet were only warm for about 2 miles before they got numb. After my ride, I had to warm my toes under the car’s heater vents before putting my regular shoes on and packing up.

I did run into a friend at the trailhead when I finished. He was trying to figure out some annoying noises at the midway point of his own ride. We chatted while I warmed my frozen toes before he continued his ride.

One of the things I love most about wintertime is getting out for a snow ride early in the morning after a fresh snowfall. For me, that rivals peak fall colors and spring leaf-out as my favorite times to be in the woods.

Belated 2013 Brown County Breakdown Recap

Sorry for the late post. After the BCBD, I moved into a new place and have been busy getting everything unpacked and organized. I’m mostly situated now, and I need to catch up on some posts.

The 2013 Breakdown was a great time. I went down for the whole weekend on Friday evening and camped both nights. I got there a little on the late side, and wound up in a suboptimal campsite. It wasn’t a bad spot, but it was out in the open and got hot in the sun. The Crosstrek held our camping gear well.

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We could have organized the gear a little better in the car, but it wasn’t bad. Unfortunately being out in the open we couldn’t use our hammocks because we had nothing to attach to. Thankfully we brought the cabin tent just in case. We need to remedy the hammock situation. A couple things that might work – freestanding hammock stands would probably be the most flexible, but also more bulky. Another alternative would be to figure out how to hang the hammocks using the roof rack as one anchor point and then only needing a stand for one end of each hammock.

We also need a canopy of some sort for cooking/relaxing under. Being out in the open exposed us to all the elements. We had a tarp we could use, but it wasn’t quite good enough.

2013 Brown County Breakdown

I found this scene when I went to fetch water Friday evening. Very nice autumn scene – a wooly bear, corn stalk, and a pumpkin.

2013 Brown County Breakdown

FYI, the work stand on a Kuat rack also makes for a handy lantern hanger. Yet another difficulty with camping in an open field. I’m used to finding trees to hang my lantern.

Saturday showed us that a lot of people didn’t get there until well after dark. This place got pretty crowded. We slept a little extra, so didn’t make it to the demo event until well after they had already begun.

2013 Brown County Breakdown

2013 Brown County Breakdown

2013 Brown County Breakdown

The wife and I got to test a nice variety of bikes. She came away with the conclusion that she loves her Santa Cruz Blur XC Carbon. That’s an outstanding conclusion, because it’s nearly a $7,000 bike! I came away liking my bike better than most of the bikes I rode, but I focused on riding things different than my own bike.

What I most wanted to demo, though, wasn’t a particular bike. I wanted to try out a bike or two with the SRAM XX1 group. I got my wish, by taking out a Giant carbon 29er hardtail.

2013 Brown County Breakdown

I loved the XX1 setup. It was quiet, offered the gearing that I wanted, and the shifting was spot on. The bike was fast, but I’m just too used to an XC FS bike and didn’t like the harshness of the hardtail. I also noticed the 29er wheels in a glaringly negative way on this bike. I found myself going too wide on most tight corners with this bike. I could probably adapt to it, but the bike’s handling felt too slow to me.

I didn’t take pictures of every bike I test rode. After the HT, I rode a Giant 6″ FS bike. I felt like the bike took all the fun out of the trail I rode (I demo’d all the bikes on the same Pine Loop/North Gate Connector course). It would be a great bike on a really chunky trail, but this was not that trail.

After that bike, I managed to get on the fatbike that Kona brought along. I’m surprised there was only one fatbike on offer. I didn’t like it at all. I’ve ridden a couple fatbikes before (the Surly Krampus and the Salsa Mukluk) and this sucked. A big part of it was the ridonkulous handlebar on it. Super super swept back, forcing me into an excessively upright position. For a size L frame (I usually ride a M), this was disconcerting. The handlebar was also too narrow for being swept so much. Handling was too twitchy. I realize Kona wanted to build a fatbike on a budget with this one, but it’s a failure. This bike isn’t half as fun as the Mukluk I rode. Even the Krampus (which I didn’t care for) was more of a fun bike.

We missed the main departure before dawn on Sunday. Those riders got out soon enough before the rain began that they got some trail miles under dry conditions before it got wet. Gearing up Sunday, it was obvious the weather would get sketchy. We hoped it wouldn’t last too long.

Gearing up for the 2013 Brown County Breakdown from TheGPSGeek on Vimeo.

We were wrong. Light rain pretty much all day, with periods of heavier showers. No storms, at least. Trails were wet and a little slick when we started with a smaller group of other riders, but it was clear that the trails weren’t going to get better. In fact, I expected that once folks left the main BCSP mtb trails, conditions would get sketchier fast. I wasn’t wrong about that.

Climbing Hesitation Point in the Mist During the 2013 Brown County Breakdown from TheGPSGeek on Vimeo.

It was beautiful out, though, in spite of the rain. The mist in the valleys when climbing up to Hesitation Point was very cool. Reminded me a lot of my last trip to Pisgah several years ago. I need to go back. The Friends of BCSP ran a very nice Sag station at the lookout. Lots of good food to stave off the bonk.

2013 Brown County Breakdown

We skipped Walnut, because sliding off rocks is not my idea of fun. After riding Limekiln, which at the time had spots in awesome shape, but also spots in terrible shape, we decided to bail on further trail riding and take the roads back. I gave up on my goal of riding 50mi that day, and the wife cut her day short, too.

In spite of the rain, I still got a PR on the HP climb. And I stopped to record vid of people trying the big rock garden in the rain.

After returning to the campground, it was time for cleaning up, eating roasted pig, and listening to a little bluegrass.

2013 Brown County Breakdown

2013 Brown County Breakdown 2013 Brown County Breakdown

2013 Brown County Breakdown

Yay for the bike wash station!

2013 Brown County Breakdown

2013 Brown County Breakdown

Oh yeah, thanks to Upland Brewing and Big Woods/Quaff On! for the beer provided Friday and Saturday nights. I’m told that last year, event attendees didn’t finish the beer that was provided. Are you kidding me?! We sure finished it this year. Here’s hoping for good times (and better weather) for next year’s Breakdown.

Busy Summer of Rides!

It’s been quite a summer. I haven’t updated much because I’ve been working a lot and when I’ve not been working, I’ve been riding a lot.

I’ve ridden a lot at Fort Harrison State Park.


Fort Harrison State Park

I’ve ridden at Town Run Trail a few times.


Town Run Trail

Town Run Trail

I’ve done a couple of bigger rides at Brown County State Park.


Brown County State Park Heistation Point

I rode at Versailles State Park.


Versailles State Park

And I rode at Southwestway Park.


Soutwestway Park

I got a new Rogue Hoe F70HR for trailwork and I’ve been using it quite a bit at Fort Harrison.

Rogue Hoe F70HR

I love this tool.

The wife and I also bought a Subaru XV Crosstrek. We put our Thule rack on the roof (from the old Jeep Liberty) for the canoe. We also bought a Torklift ECO hitch for it, and added a Kuat NV hitch rack. It’s a pretty awesome car for all of that.

Subaru XV Crosstrek

I’ve also been very busy working with the folks over at MTBProject getting a bunch of trails loaded onto the site. I’ve primarily been working on trails in Indiana (I got the data for all the trails above on there so far) but I also have so far added a bunch of trails in Nacogdoches (including the SFA Rec Trails).

I have more trails on my list this year. my goal is to get all of the trails in the Indy Metro area finished fairly soon and then focus more on the area around Brown County. There are a LOT more trails there that aren’t being ridden as much since the state park trails opened up. On my last ride at BCSP, I encountered a group of 3 Chicago riders that didn’t even know about the other trails in the area. I might add a couple more out of state, too. Depends how many trips I can make.

I have also registered for the Brown County Breakdown in September, going to enjoy one of the best bike fests in the country according to Outside Magazine.


Brown County State Park, Nashville, IN

Last weekend, the wife and I made it down to Brown County State Park to hit the mountain bike trails for the first time. With my wife being more on the beginner-intermediate end of things, we didn’t venture onto anything tougher than Green Valley (no Walnut, Hesitation Point, or Schooner). We had a blast.

We knew there was rain on the way later in the afternoon/evening, so our goal was to finish before it really dumped. I’m not sure it ever did, but there was a light sprinkle as we finished at 6pm. The trails were in mostly good shape, but they were slick in a few low spots and at stream crossings. The banged up knee pics came from one of those slick low spots/stream crossings along the Green Valley Trail. That one was probably in the worst shape of all the trails that we rode. It was better than 95% in great shape, though.

My wife did great on the trails here. Being on the beginner end of the intermediate skill level, some things are still tough for her. Downhills have been one of those things. She was hitting all the downhill stuff on this ride, and at a pretty good speed, too. Things she never would have ridden before. Things really seemed to click for her on this ride. That was until the ride length caught up with her. We did a hair over 15mi, and she started to get wiped out at maybe 12mi or so. She didn’t ride at all in the past year, so that’s still pretty good.

There are many downhill sections that really swoop and roll and make you feel like you’re on a roller coaster. Stuff you never have to pedal for, and barely touch the brakes if at all. I did hit the brakes in a few of the tight spots. With it being a little damp on even the better trails and knowing how greasy clay can be, I played it a little cautious. Especially after going down and smashing my knee on a rock. No need to injure myself before the Mini Marathon this coming Saturday.

Here’s the route we followed. I had to piece this together manually because I had some GPS issues.

Note to self: Make sure batteries are inserted into the charger correctly before leaving them to charge. I knew my batteries were going to run out on my ride at BCSP, so I put my spare set on the charger. I grabbed them and put them into my pack the next morning, and when I installed them into the GPS out on the trail, I got a great big bupkus. Dead batteries. Gah! I had to trace this track from a .kml file I have for the trail network down there.

I also opted to leave the Forerunner at home that day. It is fully charged waiting for the Mini Marathon next weekend, so even it would have been okay for the whole ride. Oh well. No time data this time around. But I can provide an elevation profile!

BCSP_2013-04-27_profile

It looks like the total elevation change was somewhere around 300ft and we had about 2500ft of climbing, at least when using elevation from the DEM dataset in Topofusion. Can’t compare it to the altimeter on my Oregon due to a lack of a full track. Either way, that’s a pretty respectable day in the saddle. Can’t wait to get Walnut, Hesitation Point, and Schooner on another ride this summer. And especially when some of the newer trails are finished like HP Bowl that’s under construction now and Hobbs Hollow which is in planning stages.

2013 HMBA Winter Mayhem Ride

Got out today to attend a group ride put on by the Hoosier Mountain Bike Association at Ft. Harrison State Park in Indianapolis, IN. What a great place this is. I first rode here back in the summer and fell in love with the flowy trails here. They’re not super hard, but they’re a blast to ride. It’s also a good place to take beginners. There’s a little elevation change, but it shouldn’t be too much to discourage them if they need to work on their fitness. There’s a great beginner’s loop, too, where they can stay pretty close to the trailhead if they need to bail.

HMBA maintains a great Google Map of the trails, too.


View Fort Harrison Mountain Biking Trails in a larger map

Here was my ride today. I only did a couple of loops because I’m not exactly in good riding shape right now. I also am having some rotor drag issues. I’m not sure how much extra energy it was requiring, but it was something. And derailleur adjustment issues. Meh. I was fine in low gears, but if I wanted more speed and I shifted into a smaller cog on my rear cluster, I’d start getting ghost shifting. I had to run a higher than usual cadence today.

Sorry for the lack of pics (yeah, I know, I promised more). I found the charger on my rugged P&S (freezeproof, so perfect for today) and I charged up the battery, but I couldn’t get it turned on. To avoid being the buy fiddling with gadgets, I left it in the car and just rode. When I got home I realized that I had forgotten that this particular camera lets you put the battery in backwards. Oops. Oh well, hopefully I remember next time.

We’ve got a warm spell coming, with some rain, so I’m not sure when my next mtb ride will be. But I’ll be sure to make it out when it gets into the 20’s again. Too bad Town Run is flooded and closed right now. I haven’t ridden there in several years. I’ll have to help with the post-flood rehab when work days start getting advertised.

Tyler State Park 23 September 2012

I’ve been busting my tail on my thesis lately and not doing much else, so when a friend invited me out to Tyler SP on Sunday with the Morning Glory Yoga Run Club, I had to come. Most of the group was there to do a 16mi trail run in training for the Tyler Marathon. The longest run I’ve done has been just over 4mi (partially on trails, I might add) so I wasn’t up to that. But the time would give me the opportunity to do the whole ABCD loop.

The most I’d previously done was the ABC loop with my wife. I love riding with my wife, but she has neither the bike fitness nor the technical skills for CD, really. C was over her head the last time we did it together and I apologized profusely, as I didn’t know exactly how rough it was. I put my photos inside the map this time around, so click on the waypoints and the popups will have the photo thumbnails. If you click them, you’ll get to see the full sized image on flickr.


There appears to be a temporary error with displaying this file. I was getting a FETCH_ERROR and TIMED_OUT, which appears to be a problem on Google’s end. I hope that gets worked out. Until then, here’s a photo slideshow. If you really want to see the map, it appears if you refresh it enough, it will eventually display.

Here’s my Strava embed if you’re interested in my ride stats at all. I had to stop a few times. The loop C switchbacks are a beast. I haven’t been able to clean them yet. My first attempt I went over backwards. This time I made it about halfway up before hitting something (I don’t remember what) and tumbling down the hill. The big climb on the backside of loop B is tough. It’s a long one and after riding everything else, I find myself needing a break JUST before the top at one of the false flats. I do apparently have a respectable pace when I’m moving along. On my lap of AB after doing ABCD, I managed 15th overall out of the whole pack of nearly 60 riders who have done this loop. Not bad when I’m pretty exhausted already.

I brought the GoPro along and took some video. I admit, I didn’t put a lot of effort into getting a bunch of angles. I was honestly more interested in riding. Got some chesty footage and some rear-facing footage. I chopped it all up so nothing is in order.

Tyler State Park 23 September 2012 from TheGPSGeek on Vimeo.

I am absolutely beat. A warm bath with epsom salts did me well, but I’m still going to be hurting tomorrow morning. Do I bike to the office, or do I use one of my single-day parking passes and rest my muscles? I think that will be a game day decision.