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At least I'm enjoying the ride  //   Tuesday - April 25, 2006

So, where to begin? Feels like it's been a while since I've typed about riding in this space. Been getting plenty of it in, taking advantage of nice weather (well, up until recently) and getting a lot of variety on top of it. If we back track about 1.5 weeks ago, I think that's where I left off.

On that Saturday a few of us had to help the Disco Cowboy move to new digs. When we were done shuffling boxes we pounded some kind beers to prepare for the afternoon's two wheel action. Figuring I was slightly closer to the old home turf I headed up to Avalon with Spearmint and the Trossinator. With the mercury in the low 80's and conditions bone dry it was a hot and dusty ride. First time I've been back since I've moved. It was good to ride with those two boys that I don't get out with much and good to hit the old trails again.

Since we were heading to my sister-in-law's on Sunday the girl and I went hunting for the Easter bunny on the trails of Hashawa in Carroll County. I usually only get up there once a year after the annual February bike swap but this year was a bust because of heavy rain. So we lucked out with good weather and I got my annual ride in. The trails up there are a nice mix of rugged singletrack that I'd describe as a mix between Patapsco and Loch Raven. They definitely see more use by equestrians than bikers and sometimes it shows, but on this day things were in pretty good shape. It was Julie's first foray there and she may have been silently cursing my early choice of heart attack inducing short and steeps, but overall she seemed to dig the ride.

Mid-week saw Markie Mark and I hit the rocks of Gambrill once again. With no flats this time we burned out the extended yellow loop in record time. For the second week in a row I cleaned one of the nastiest, rocky waterbar climbs proving to myself last week wasn't a fluke. Which I was sure it may be since not to long ago I was thinking it might be a hill that was going to remain out of reach. But all of that energy left little for the next rocky, slow-motion waterbar climb that ups the ante a good bit. That one will be a tough nut to crack if I can ever get it. But with hill #1 in the bag maybe this one is possible one day down the road. Who knows, you can only try.

The dry spell ended here and rain started moving into the picture, April showers came late this year but they still showed up. Saturday I got the call to break out the tools and lend a hand on some trail maintenance at Green Briar state park. Well, it rained harder than I've seen it in a while. Four hours of chain sawing crap in the pouring down rain. We left the smaller stuff and got rid of the big crap. I would have liked to leave some more but some of the trail is actually fire roads that the park crew needs vehicle access to. Even with rain gear I wound up soaked and like a numb nut didn't even bring a change of clothes for the drive home.

Sunday I busted out from the house on the fixed Crosscheck mounted up with the Ritchey Mt. Cross knobs, hopping to get some road and double track riding in, looking for an old access road that should be an access point to Gambrill state park somewhere in the middle. I had an idea where it might be in the park and was hoping my instincts were right. I cruised through the city and started heading for the mountain via Shookstown road. The climb start gradual and continues to get steeper as fast as you seem to be running out of steam. Soon after the rain started I was turning the cranks so slow I thought I might fall over sideways. I continued to grind out squares as the rain picked up. The rain was coming down hard and I knew the possibility of heavy hail was in the forecast so I told myself I'd finish the climb up to the Gambrill parking lot and then double back. Luckily the temps weren't too cold and the Smart Wool jersey was doing it's job. That's more than I can saw for the cotton painters pants that I was wearing over my lycra. Figuring they'd keep the knees warm while letting some air flow (like I've done many times before) I wasn't counting on the storm hitting while I was out. Wrong once again. As I continued the slow burn up the hill, nose pointed at the asphalt, I notice someone has spray painted "Only 240 miles to go" on the road. 240 miles to where? Not the inspiration I needed at that point. As I finally crested the ridge I descended a hundred yards or so only to make a 90 degree turn on to Gambrill Park road to continue climbing the ridge. The parking lot was still a little way up hill, but I was already revising my plan. I pulled off my fogged up glasses and bit the ear piece to hold them, knowing I needed to keep the grip on the bars to continue climbing. Steep, steep, steep, I passed the parking lot and mentally decided I keep going until the High Knob look out. Of course, as I neared it I revised the plan again and decide to just push on through with my original route. Once up to High Knob you are on the ridge, it's not flat but the hills are more rollers than leg breakers. After a few miles I spotted the fire road, wasn't sure if it was the one I wanted but headed down. After 3/4 of a mile it turned to private property and a house. On a time line I reversed course to head back to the road. The rain was starting to let up and I figured I'd finish the ridge. Which is what I did, then headed down the mountain via Hamburg road, terrifyingly steep, wet hairpin turns and chunked up roads with the legs flailing like egg beaters. I'm not ashamed to admit I was glad to have a front brake on the fixed gear. Spun it out to the house, 20 some miles mostly in the rain and an hour later the sun was out. Go figure.

So, wrapping things up, hit the Hoyles Mill/Black Hills combo with Scott and Ricky d Monday after work. Fun stuff, never did it before. Lots of cool whoops and jumps to hit. The Hoyles Mill trail has a MAJOR stream crossing and it was flowing good from Sunday's rain. When I say major, it's more like a small river and way over the bottom bracket. So deep it becomes almost impossible to pedal. In fact, when we crossed it on the return trip we were going against the current and I blew the last bit, losing momentum at the very end. Shortly after the second good bath, the Kelly started making some funky noises while pedaling. I think the BB is probably done. The Surly is on deck for tomorrow. Enjoying the ride, how about you?

- riderx

Happy Earth Day  //   Monday - April 24, 2006

Way to lead by example peckerhead. And I'm sure he's logged a lot of trail maintenance hours too. No wonder that IMBA membership is honorary...

- riderx

Lock and Load  //   Monday - April 24, 2006

A Slate journalist and Washington DC rider does some testing of locks with assistance for DC shop City Bikes. Who came out on top? Click that link back there and see. As always is the case with these tests, their methodology isn't perfect but at least it's a starting place for striking a few choices off of your list. I must say, my own locking habits are a little more lax when locking up here in Fredrock than when I'd being doing the same in Baltimore. I still lock up, just not quite as Fort Knox style.

May 6th is the Kinetic Sculpture Race in Baltimore. If you've never been, treat yourself to a day of free pedal powered fun. It's like a rolling carnival.

- riderx


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