…in which I ride alone, so I can ride.

I keep a close eye on the weather. I work outside. I play outside. And people rely on me to make judgement calls about trails around here at times. So earlier in the week, as I was looking at the weather, I decided this weekend would be a terrible time for mountain biking, because we all know you shouldn’t ride wet trails. Thursday, on the other hand, was beautiful. I put the my single speed in the truck, and took off for Rotary Park after lunch. There, I rode what is pretty much my standard loop encompassing pretty much every trail in the park, netting me a distance of right at 7 miles, with about 800 feet of climbing. It was quite a good ride, I had a lot of fun on it, and had the sense that I’m starting to regain some of the fitness that I dropped off during the winter.

After the ride, on a whim, I dropped by my LBS and chatted at them for a few minutes. They were curious about how the wheels they’d built me were holding up, so I let the wheel builder take a look at them. He was suitably impressed with their condition. He (Richard, to put a name to him) had asked me about them previously, and I told him they were still true, and seemed to be holding up well. He was under the impression they hadn’t been used very hard yet, but I quickly disabused him of that notion by pointing out that my chain was way too tight. I mis-timed a j-hop over a couple logs in a low place and hit the back wheel hard enough to re-tension the chain. After explaining that, Richard checked the tightness of the bolts on the back wheel, and finding that they weren’t at all loose, he briefly double checked the rear wheel to see if it was in fact, still true. Yes, it was. All this by way of saying, my Pacentti TL28’s are holding up nicely on my single speed. I suppose that means that sometime soon I’ll have to update my Bikes page with some more of my bikes, huh?


And now for the Metal.

I don’t want to trip anyone up here. The name of this blog is CliplessMetal. Yes, I ride with clipless pedals. And I have a tendency towards heavy metal. Ok, it’s all rock and roll, some of it’s just heavier. And I really like all kinds of music. But being a metal head, in my industry, in the area that I live in kind of puts me in my own little orbit. For those of you tuning in to hear about a bike ride, let me get that out of the way for you.

This past Saturday, our Social ride wasn’t as social as we hope it will be when we organize these things. Which is to say, that threatening weather kept most people away. Still, four of us showed up, and got in a good ride. Because of the impending weather, I didn’t carry a camera with me, so you don’t get any pictures this time. But we did ride, near as makes no difference, 7 miles according to my GPS  gadgetry. All that with an average speed of 6.6 mph and 850ish feet of climbing may not make it the fastest ride in history, but that’s not the point is it? And that impending weather? It rolled in about 20 minutes after we finished riding, and stuck around for 48 hours.

Now, about that metal thing. If you aren’t in the music industry, you may not have noticed, but new albums are released on Tuesdays. Today was one Tuesday I’ve waited rather anxiously for. See, back in 1997, this upstart band had the temerity to release a single (nay, a whole album!) that sounded like nothing before. Often imitated, but never duplicated, Sevendust secured a place in my personal music history by becoming one of only a handful of bands that I’d never heard of prior to hearing one of their songs on the radio, at which time I immediately proceeded to a record store….remember those? – and bought the album. The song was Black. Today, Sevendust released Black Out the Sun. Of course, if you have the ability to read this far, you can probably infer that I’ve already bought the album. I listened to it twice through between the store I had to drive to to buy it, and the time I got home. At which point, I imported into iTunes.

Now, I could probably make a whole post about my thoughts on music, formats, and listening apparatuses , but suffice to say I’m listening to the album a third time through as I type this, with the mode of transduction being a pair of Sennheiser HD650 head phones. For now, I’ll leave the comments regarding the head phones at this: They are very revealing of problems. As a result, I’m careful about being overly critical of problems I hear when I’m listening to lossy audio files, but when something sounds good, these things never lie.

Black Out the Sun is a monument of heavy, riff driven guitars and big drums. The melodious styling of the vocals are a testament of past works, verification that there’s really something to sing about. The songs on this album are like the faith of the band, painted on a sign, and posted for the world to see. It’s their hearts, worn on their sleeves, as they stand in the spotlight of the worlds stage. The guys have families now, they aren’t kids anymore, and their music is bearing out a more mature world perspective. It’s not just angst, rage, good times, and old friends, it’s a commentary, genuine insight. You don’t have to like it, but you should at least respect it.

When I write something like this up, most people want to know if I have a favorite song. People who know me asked of the last Sevendust album (Cold Day Memory) if there was another Black on that album. Has anything reached out to me, have I latched onto something that was musically, fundamentally life/perspective altering the way Black was. The short answer is ..maybe. The first single from the album is Decay. The video for that song is out today. You can, of course, watch it in the same place you can watch almost any music video you want…not MTV, but YouTube. Have a link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uy_9ql5c4go  The song is almost a perfect image of what a Sevendust song should be, if you want to look at it like that.

But that’s not the song that really has my attention. Til Death is a powerhouse of a song about being proud of your faith. It’s done in a very open way, regardless of what you believe, believe it strongly enough to be bold about it. It’s a fantastic statement. But that’s not the song that really scratched my ears either. Nope, the song that has me backing up at the end and listening again is Dark AM. I won’t bother to try to break the song down and tell you what I hear, but the guitars invite you to experience their pain, and you find it it’s an addictive sort of pain. The whole song opens up, rises and falls, then leaves you hanging, want more, like a drug. Yeah, it’s pretty good.

But look, the whole album is good. There’s not a song on the album I’m not willing to listen to in order to get to the next one. It’s not as big a deal as it used to be, but on vinyl and tape, skipping a song was almost more trouble than it was worth, and we listened to whole albums. With CD’s we skipped around to the songs we liked. With iTunes or whatever, we only buy the tracks we want! If you’re one of those people, don’t do it this time. Buy the whole bleeding thing, it’s that good.

And on that note, next week, more rides to post about, plus, I’m likely to be back in Bells Bend working on more trail out there before too long.

The week in review.

Normally, I would try to do more of a post per ride or issue, or whatever. But the way things have been going I’m fortunate to be able to have time for this update. Ok, that may be a bit of a dramatization, but seriously. Here we go.

It rained early in the week, and then it got nice. It stayed warm and sunny with a light breeze until late Thursday evening. When it rained again. Fortunately, it didn’t rain much. The trails would have been ok on Friday, but I avoided them just to be safe, and went to the rail trail. Friday was a special occasion for a ride. My son just got a new bike, his first 26″ MTB. It isn’t a huge step up from the 24″ youth bike he was riding, but then again, it is. It’s a bit lighter, it’s made with slightly more durable components, and it has disc brakes. The bike he got is a Giant Revel 1. It’s a great ride, and the guys at the LBS did a great job setting it up for him. I should post a picture of the floor tag that was on the bike just to prove how great the guys at the LBS are, but maybe I’ll do that later.

Anyhow, my son and I did 8 miles on the paved section of the trail. It’s a pretty trail, it runs along the flood plain of the Cumberland River, through a little community called Chapmansboro. It crosses a creek, where there’s a good sized old railroad bridge. It’s a flat trail, with pretty views, and an easy ride for anyone to get acquainted with a new bike. It would be enough to say that both of my children have learned to ride bikes on this trail because my yard is too steep for small children.

Saturday morning, I started out my day with a treat. The first Formula 1 qualifying session of the new season. That was cut short, and I won’t go on about why. It didn’t matter, I had work to do anyway. I set off for Bells Bend Park to meet up with the guys from SORBA MidTN. There’s some new single track going in out there. It’s a gateway trail, something designed for beginners to cut their teeth on. It will only amount to 4 or 5 miles when it’s all done, but it’s slow going because the first section of trail is going into re-growth woods. By nature, it’s very thick, and while that makes the trail building slow work, it makes the trail special. It’s like a tunnel through an impenetrable wilderness. When this trail is done, it may be designed for beginners, but it will be an enchanting, relaxing ride for anyone when pushing the limits isn’t in the cards. I stayed there til mid day, then bolted north for some trail time, on a bike.

The our group met up for the Saturday Social, and unsurprisingly, most of the crowd was different than last week, but they were mostly still regulars. I pulled one of my standard charge-ahead-and-take-pictures maneuvers at one point and caught some of the folks riding over an up-and-over that can be rolled, jumped like a table top, or pretty much anything in between. So without further delay….

Here comes a regular. This angry, chain smoking German bloke isn't really all that bad a guy. In fact, I rather like him. He's converted that Canondale to 650b as well. He's got nothing but good to say about it. He's also a good hand to have around when you're building trail. He helped build that structure he's riding on......

Here comes a regular. This angry, chain smoking German bloke isn’t really all that bad a guy. In fact, I rather like him. He’s converted that Canondale to 650b as well. He’s got nothing but good to say about it. He’s also a good hand to have around when you’re building trail. He helped build that structure he’s riding on….

I have to confess, this is the first time I'm aware of this rider had been out with us. I was pleased as punch to see someone else on a rigid single speed.

I have to confess, this is the first time I’m aware of this rider had been out with us. I was pleased as punch to see someone else on a rigid single speed.

You might recognize Richard from last week's pictures. He's back again. For what it's worth, this is Richard of esbk.co infamy, and he's the bike mechanic who laced up the angry German bloke's wheels.

You might recognize Richard from last week’s pictures. He’s back again. For what it’s worth, this is Richard of esbk.co infamy, and he’s the bike mechanic who laced up the angry German bloke’s wheels.

Here's another of our regulars. We see him quite a lot.

Here’s another of our regulars. We see him quite a lot.

Finally, I’ve got a rare treat. I’m usually behind the camera, not in front of it, but I did let Richard play with the camera for a minute, so there’s a picture of me, featuring my trusty single speed.


We did a little over 6 miles, with around 870 feet of climbing. It’s a little more than we do on some of our socials, but it’s not that long a ride in the grand scheme of things. I will say that for this time of the year, coming out of all the rain we’ve had recently that’s prevented a lot of riding, it felt really good. I’m looking forward to the groups picking up as the weather evens out and people get back into the swing of these Saturday afternoon rides.

Dodging bullets.

Fortunately, this isn’t a post about going riding during hunting season and being shot at. It’s pretty serious though. All last week, my family was taking turns being sick with the flu. My wife was even supposed to go to a conference this past weekend and didn’t because she was sick, in spite of my staying home with the first sick child to try to keep her away from the illness. She ended up getting sick and not going. All the while, I stayed healthy. Which meant that rather than sitting around the house this weekend, or entertaining the kids, everyone else stayed home and recovered from being sick, while I went riding with friends. It’s worth mentioning that many of them were recovering from a winter spent away from their bikes, either by choice or due to weather. What’s a lot of hooigans who would ride with me look like?

Saturday Social ride participants from March 9, 2013.

Saturday Social ride participants from March 9, 2013.

So this lot was riding with me Saturday. We  did more talking than usual, much of it between gasps for air as we took breaks. The range of riders, skill levels, and gear varies wildly on these rides, so sometimes it’s interesting to check out what’s going on. For the record, from left to right, that’s guy who could be retired on a Trance 29er, a much younger guy on an old Trek with no suspension, one of our military boys on a Trance 26er, and a 1998 ProFlex. Behind the ProFlex is one more rider, on a Trance. I personally was on my Anthem this day because..umm…there was a reason I rode that bike that day, but I don’t remember what it was. If you think you detect a pattern, you could be right. Two of the riders on this ride work in a bike shop that sells Giant bikes.

We went out and did our usual “beginners loop” because this ride, in addition to being a social ride, is also a family ride, and a beginners ride. It starts out with two loops around a relatively easy trail, where riders can get pointers and gain experience on single track. After that, usually the beginners or less ambitious riders will drop back out to the parking lot, and others will continue on for a loop or two of slightly more advanced riding. After that, usually more people drop out (these people tend to hang out in the parking lot chatting with each other and inviting other people to join the ride next time) and the remaining people will tackle the two more advanced loops in the park. On this particular day, that meant everyone but me went back to the parking lot, and I made a big loop and finished by stringing together a series of downhills I affectionately refer to as the Roller Coaster. But before that happened, I took off and got way up in front of everyone else, so I could snap a few pictures of the guys coming down the back side of the loop.

The ProFlex is a work of art, but Richard still rides it plenty hard.

The ProFlex is a work of art, but Richard still rides it plenty hard.

Anthony likes down hill stuff, it's where he got started. This is all pretty easy for him, he's relaxed.

Anthony likes down hill stuff, it’s where he got started. This is all pretty easy for him, he’s relaxed.

Irish thought he was pretty retro on his rigid Trek. Next time I ride with him, I'm going to take my (rigid) single speed and show him what simplicity is all about.

Irish thought he was pretty retro on his rigid Trek. Next time I ride with him, I’m going to take my (rigid) single speed and show him what simplicity is all about.


It was a fun ride, and I always enjoy the crowd that shows up for it, although it was a relatively small turnout this time, and I’m looking forward to everyone getting back into the swing of this ride as the weather gets better. Unfortunately, the 4 miles and change I rode Saturday didn’t quite get it done for me, and I was itching for more. Fortunately, the rain that was forecast for Sunday held off until after 5pm, so I was able to take the SS back to Rotary park (the location of the Saturday Social, also the only place in Clarksville, TN to mountain bike – for now) and put in a 7.5 mile tour of all the trails in the park. Now, that ride I felt. In fact, I could still feel it this morning (Tuesday) when I woke up. Although the ride felt good, being able to feel it for two days is a sure sign that I’ve got a little work to do before I’m back in shape for good riding weather.



It’s snow problem.

It’s terrible, I know. But believe it or not, it snowed in MidTN on and off for almost 36 hours. Of course, being MidTN, it wasn’t really cold enough for the snow to stick to anything, so rather than  having a great ride in the snow because the trails under the snow were frozen, it meant that I had to ride the local rail trail to get a ride in. It was a pretty ride, it was actively snowing, and although the main part of the trail was clear, the snow was sticking to vegetation and to the bridges on the trail. I rode 8.25 miles, but that was nearly cut short by a mechanical issue about 2 miles in. The retaining ring on the cog on my single speed came loose and hung up between the hub and the frame. It might not have been such a big deal, if I’d had any proper tools with me, but what could possibly go wrong on a rail trail? Never mind, don’t answer that.

I was able to fix the problem without too much trouble because I did have my Leatherman tool with me, which has proved handy on more than one occasion. From that point on, there was nothing really interesting about the ride, it was just a ride. Not too fast a ride, because a single speed is only going to go so fast on a flat rail trail, but at least it was a ride.

I would like to have had pictures from this ride but I haven’t got a waterproof camera to carry with me yet. I have found a stunningly elegant way to carry my DSLR on the bike with me, which I promise I’ll give some information about soon. It could even lead to my purchasing a new DSLR at some point, but hopefully not because I’ve crashed and destroyed the current one.

Locked Up Alone.

I broke a long streak of not being able to ride trails today. I won’t go on about how bad the weather has been, and what our clay soil is like when it’s been wet, or worse, when it freezes and thaws. No, instead, I’m going to tell you it was about 40 F when I started riding, and about 55 F when I finished. I rode a trail that is arguably one of MidTN’s most popular, Lock 4. There’s a reason it’s popular. It’s sweet trail, largely free of roots and small traction compromising rocks unless the section is specifically supposed to feel that way, for instance the Jeep trail climb. I took a picture looking back down that.



The jeep trail is a little bit of double track rock section up what passes for a hill at Lock 4, which is largely flat, relatively speaking. Don’t let me turn you off on the trail, it’s not flat. It’s just that 700 feet of climbing and descending in 7 miles isn’t hilly by my standards. What this trail does is flow. Again, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t one of those new trails that builders are taking so much flack for, with people calling them characterless, etc. No, this trail flows because it’s just the way the land lays here. The best way to demonstrate this might be to go ahead and post a picture of a feature called Rolling Table.



The reality is, this is plush single track, it’s fast, it rolls, there are lots of little rollers in the trail to hop over, lots of lips and berms on the edges of turns to catch and catapult yourself through, and even a few technical rocky places to negotiate. Unlike last time I was out here, I didn’t see a lot of wildlife on the trails, but it’s not unusual to see white tail deer, turkeys, and ducks and geese gallor here. Yes, Lock 4 is right next to a lake, and a significant amount of trail borders the lake.



To say I had a blast for an hour or so today riding (and re-riding some) loops out here would qualify as understatement. When I got on the first loop, and opened up, and started whipping around turns and hopping over the rolling features in the trail it was almost like I’d been holding my breath since the last time I was on a trail, and finally, I was breathing again. It didn’t matter that I was alone. It made no difference that the woods were still and quiet, like the trees and the animals were hold their breath too. It was therapy. It was needed, it was deserved, it was necessary, and it was the ultimate luxury.

As a bonus, although I rode alone, I got to the trail relatively early. There was only one other person there when I arrived, and somehow, rounding through the loops, I never encountered them, and they weren’t back yet when I arrived back at the parking lot. There I did find a few other riders unloading, eager to know what conditions were like. Aside from a few soft spots (when you encounter some mud on a loop named “the sink hole…”) it was perfect. It was a one time shot, because it’s raining tonight, but the trail was perfect today. One gentleman struck up a conversation with me. He was quite happy the trail was open, as he was trying to ride enough to improve his result in the six hour race that’s held here in the fall. He told me this past fall, he got 5 laps in with a time of just over 5 hours. His goal this year is to get 6 laps inside the 6 hour limit. Now, I can lap straight through in 53 minutes, my first lap out. I’ve never bothered to time my second one. But I can tell you I think 5 laps is pretty good. I figured this fellow to be in his 50s when we started talking, but the longer we talked, the more I began to suspect I had undershot his age a bit. I finally asked him how old he was – would you believe 70? Seriously. And he was every bit as giddy as a school boy…or me….to get to ride today. Think about that for a second. I find it inspiring. I’m more than half way there, and I hope I can do as well as he is at his age. I’d say that I’ve hoped that he had a good ride today, but the fact is, I know he did.

Single-Track Minded

After so much wet weather, and not being able to get a whole lot done an any front, yesterday was a welcome change to that pattern. In spite of a little rain Thursday night, we were able to get in the woods yesterday, and accomplish something. Yesterday morning I left the house early, in the dark and drove into Nashville. There, I help the guys and gals of IMBA/Sorba MidTN (http://sorbamidtn.org/) do some work on phase two of the trails going in at Cane Ridge Park.

Cane Ridge Park Trail Map

It’s nice to see some trails going in over there that are beginner friendly. Many of the trails in this area are not beginner friendly just because of the terrain here, but things there are much more mild than where a lot of our trails are. We made a lot of progress, but that was due in no small part to the turnout. There were twenty people there helping out. It’s staggering how much progress that many people can make.

Because of the warmer temperatures, and the wind blowing, and the sun coming out yesterday, things dried out pretty well, and in the afternoon, I met up with a friend and we hit the trails at Rotary Park in Clarksville. There’s only about 7 miles of trail there, but there’s very little flat ground, so most of the time you’re either climbing or descending. It’s a pretty fun ride, and it’s been getting better, because that’s where I’ve had my crews focusing their work days, is improving trail there. We got in a good 2 hour ride before we wrapped things up. Along the way we both learned that winter is killing us, and we need to get back into shape. Hopefully the weather will co-operate further, and permit more progress on that front in the near future than it has in the recent past.