In which you get an update, but no pictures. Yet.

There’s a big reason I’ve been busy and not posting a lot lately. It’s not a good reason…or it is a good reason, but it’s no excuse. Something like that. I mentioned when I owed you an update that I got a new job. I also mentioned that I’d finalized a few things on that new mountain bike trail. That’s really dodging the issue a bit. The truth is, I got a job with the city parks and recreation department that new trail is in. My job is…building trails. So, I have paid time to spend building trails with an mini excavator owned by the city, that I don’t have to pay for, or buy fuel for. Really, all I have to do is show up and build trail. And train volunteers who want to help. So most Saturdays, we have volunteer crews out there. This is in addition to the work days we still run on our existing local trails on the first and third Sundays. That’s sort of a wreck too.

Recently, an property owner adjoining the park where our existing trails are had their property logged. We discovered that some of the trail originally built in the park….isn’t. So the section of trail that the loggers did their thing over top of is destroyed, and we’re building a re-routed section that stays inside the park. If I’m honest, the most impressive thing so far about this situation has been the lack of finger pointing by the groups in the park about who was at fault for the trail being on private property. So far, everyone is just sucking it up and helping build the re-route. Which is nice.

And don’t think that my being too busy to post has in any way hampered my riding. It hasn’t. I’ve had some great rides lately, both because they really were great rides, or because they maybe were marred by some mechanical difficulties, but the company and just the fact that we were out riding made them great. And really, isn’t that the important thing? On one ride a couple of weeks ago, my Single Speed started making an alarming creaking sound rather suddenly. It was so bad I was afraid I’d broken the frame. I got home, put the bike in the stand, and took the bottom bracket appart, cleaned everything up, threads, bearings, frame, all of it. I check the frame very closely for cracks, but didn’t find any. I put the bottom bracket back in, and torqued everything down right, and gave it a try. Behold, it worked beautifully, and was silent. While I would like to upgrade the Single Speed to a nice Ti frame (Lynskey?) I must say I was relieved to not HAVE to do so.

The last two times I’ve ridden the Anthem, I’ve been plagued by pinch flats. This is more confounding than normal because I checked the tire pressures, I’m running exactly what I’ve always run, I weigh the same, and yet two rides in a row, I’ve found snake bite holes in my tube after a rather jarring impact on the back wheel. Which either means I’m riding worse than I was, or I’m going faster than I was and it’s thrown my timing off, or just causing me to hit harder and pinching. Either way, it’s frustrating. As such, I’ve decided to consider this new fangled tubeless technology. Although, you could argue, I’ve gone about it backwards.

I converted the rear wheel of the Single Speed to tubeless. Yes, just the rear wheel of the Single Speed. Here’s why, lest you think my crazy(er). The tires on the SS (WTB Exiwolf front and Nano rear) have both been victims of sharp rocks – cut right through. But running with tubes, that’s not a huge problem, because the cuts are in the tread. It also happens, that the Pacenti rims on the SS are designed to be tubeless compatible. I have a set of Racing Ralphs that I took off my Anthem – I can’t say I was horrible impressed with them, especially on the front. I was going to grab one of those and throw it on the back of the SS, since I decided I would “use both of them up” on the back of the SS since I don’t think they’ll cause me traction issues there. The surprise came when I let the air out of the Nano and went to break the bead to remove the tire. It was HARD to get it to release. So, just for giggles, I took the tube out, put the tubeless valve stem (the only one my LBS had…another reason I only did the rear) in the rim, and put the tire back on. A quick shot with the air compressor and the beads seated just like they should, and it blew a bunch of air out of the hole in the tread, like I knew it would. But it looked good around the bead. So I took the tire off, put a good old fashion patch on the inside of the hole in the tread, put the tire back on, seated the bead (cheating alert) then let the air out, took the valve core out, and dumped in my Stans juice. Put all that back together and inflated it, and sealed everything up and….presto. Tubeless. Like it had a brain. So how is it?

It’s great. I dropped the pressure from 32 psi to 30 psi. I took it for it’s single track shake down this morning. The grip was outrageous. 2 psi made a lot of difference. The feel was also much better, the ride as a whole was less harsh. I rode the bike pretty hard, hit some off camber roots, jumped it, carved some hard turns, and basically tried to make it burp, but it held like a champ. So now I need to do the front. And I need to figure out how to deal with the S-XC2 rims on my Anthem – a full Stans rim strip kit, or just some stans tape? Ah well, I’ll figure it out.

I’ll hit y’all again soon with pictures. I’ve got trail pictures, flower pictures, pictures I probably don’t remember taking, and probably pictures of me playing with fire.

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.

IMG_3860-SS-crop

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.

Grinding Gravel, Part 1

The rain just won’t let up. Single track all over MidTN lies useless, abandoned, soggy, waiting for warmer drier days, and riders gripped by the simple thrill of following a dirt trail through the woods. But a guy has to ride. He has to mount up, turn the peddles, climb a hill, carve a turn, bunny hop something ridicules. He needs to grind out some miles to stay in some shape, vaguely resembling fit. Fortunately for me, there’s a new answer to this problem.

Most of our greenways around here are flat. They exist that way because they were built on old rail beds, intentionally built as devoid of grade as they could possibly be, in order to allow the trains to move more efficiently. I recently spoke to a land manager, however, who holds the key to answering a lot of local needs. We need places we can ride when the weather is like it has been. We need places we can put more single track. A lot more single track. Unfortunately, that usually requires some blend of public land, and magic. Fortunately, this land manager is the decision maker for upwards of twenty thousand contiguous acres of public land. To put a little icing on that cake (because who doesn’t like icing on their cake?) that land is criss crossed by a network of gravel roads and existing double track semi-improved foot paths. Over seventy miles of gravel roads, in fact. Not really nice gravel roads like you’d drive your car down, the kind that make you want a jeep, or a four wheel drive truck, because they aren’t really smooth, and there are some huge puddles on some of them.

So I was having a little chat with this land manager, and he said sure, you can ride out there. I asked if I could build trail out there. His response started out badly. He explained he didn’t have the time, the man power, the funding, or the equipment to maintain, clean up, clear off and otherwise mess with trails. But hey, if I had a bunch of volunteers and wanted to build trails all over the place, I could knock myself out. Que elation. Because that made me pretty happy. Now, there’s a lot of work to be done. I can’t just walk in there with some tools and start building. And you can only tell so much from a topo map. So one of the things I’ve been spending time doing is riding my mountain bike around on these completely deserted gravel roads. Surveying the lay of the land, as it were, to see if anything in particular strikes my fancy.

The result is, my best rides recently have been grinding away at the hills on these gravel roads, meandering through the woods, miles from anything. Some of the hills are nice and rolling, and allow a fair bit of speed. That makes for an interesting choice when one of the afore mentioned large puddles presents itself. Slow down and ride through it? Crank away as hard as I can and bunny hop it? Yes. Of course, some of them are just too big. But others are just big enough to pose a challenge. Suffice to say, these rides not only improve my frame of mind because I can get out and ride, but also because I can see the potential of this piece of land opening up to mountain bikers in this area. We have so few really large tracts of land to work with, that many of our riding venues are limited to 10 or 12 miles. Many are less than that, because you can simply only do so much with a 100 acre park. To put some perspective on how limited that is, consider this. Yesterday I rode a 7.25 mile loop. It covered just a small fraction of this piece of land. Yet, inside that loop, is 1200 acres of land. Knock myself out, the man said. Yes sir, I probably will.