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Hump day blues  //   Thursday - August 12, 2004

What is it about Wednesdays and rain? For the past three weeks, our mid-week dirt action has been thwarted by the wet stuff. This week, a mere hour and a half before the ride the skies split wide open and unloaded bucketfuls of water on us. The sun was out by ride time and some of the crew made it out on the pavement. I intended to, but bailed when some last minute things came up, coupled with the previously unknown flat on the fixed gear, coupled with the need to get down to DC for the Sonic Youth show. The show was on fire, but no ride = bummer on that front. Side note: spotted a Bianchi fixed gear locked up outside the club.

Last week, we actually got part way through the ride before a nasty thunderstorm rolled up on us. The sky blacked out, thunder rumbled loud and low and the next thing you know we are caught in a storm with rains so heavy you could barely see. No exaggeration on that one. It's been a long time since I've ridden in rain that intense. At least it wasn't cold out. My bike needed a wash anyway.

And, stepping back one week further (guess I'm catching up on some of those ride posts I've been neglecting), we had a massive deluge of rain on Tuesday night that unleashed 4.5 inches of rain, wiping out any hope of hitting dirt. We still had a good ride though, 9 riders showed up for our hodge-podge road ride. Dave showed up sporting his vintage Ritchey MTB. Very nice bike.

We did some of the usual Patapsco Valley road riding with a twist or two off the normal route. The highlight, if you want to call it that, was the descent down Bonnie Branch road, a fast and twisty wooded road. Narrow, no shoulders, guard rails to keep you out of the creek. As we turn onto the road slow pedaling from the recent group regathering, Paul and Dr. Mark make a break off the front. Caught by surprise, I give chase. Now Dr. Mark, as Kevin has tagged him, is hungry like the wolf. Ride for ride, he probably puts out more effort than anyone in the group. Being fairly new to the group though, I'm not even sure if he is a doctor. He's not a physician, but some sort of research scientist type. For all I know, he may be a self-proclaimed doctor like Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. But I digress.

Anyway, as we enter in the first of the S turns Paul is in the lead taking the inside line, the good doctor is close behind, on his knobbied MTB and I'm working to close the gap. By this time my legs are flailing the fixed gear like egg beaters. I glance at my handlebar and the computer reads 35 MPH (yeah, I've got a comp. on my fixie, what's it to you?) as I continue to accelerate. Paul stays tight, Mark starts widening the turn and I'm working on passing him on the outside. Mark keeps pushing me further out until I realize, I'm not going to pass. In fact, we may be looking at road rash in a minute as he's moving into the other lane. Oncoming traffic, if there is any, is not visible on this blind curve. This is not a good place to be. Instead of continuing my acceleration for the pass I start slowing my cadence, unweighting the back wheel and making attempts to slow down quick. Realize, the turn is pretty short and tight and this is all happening in the span of a couple of seconds - max. Skid stopping is not happening in the time or distance I would need and the conditions wouldn't allow it if I wanted to anyway. Slowing down fast is not an option either.

At this point I realize more stopping power is needed and reach for the front brake (yeah, i run one of those too, comes in handy). It soon becomes obvious that Mark is no longer attempting to make the turn, he is on the bail out route. And me, I'm doing nose wheelies into a turn at 35 mph. The back end is squirrelly, whipping in the wind as the rear tire rises and falls. Jay is hot on my tail witnessing the whole thing. The Doctor shoots into a gravel driveway on the outer radius of the curve trying to rein himself in like a tractor-trailer on a runaway truck ramp. By some combination of luck and skill I manage to avoid plowing him, keep from going over the bars and continue through the turn and into the descent. But man, I tell you, it is a close call and the adrenaline is rushing through the veins. By the time Mark catches back up, I've cooled down and decided not to ride him into the nearest ditch. Seems those knobbies just weren't up to the task of high speed cornering. Nothing like a little fear to make you feel alive, eh?

And now, back to today, it's raining again as I write this and Tropical Storm Somebody is scheduled to piss on us all day tomorrow. Oh joy.

- riderx

Headgear  //   Thursday - August 12, 2004

Crank it up. Helmet is back in action. New album, new tour. Yeah.

- riderx

Is anyone out there?  //   Monday - August 9, 2004

All's quiet on the eastern front. Or so it might seem by the recent lack of riding posts, eh? I've been riding, but I must admit I finally hit burn out on the local trails this weekend. It happens from time to time. Probably the only disadvantage to living next to the trails is wearing them out. So on Saturday I slapped the Ritchey cross tires on the fixed gear and we headed south to the C&O Canal, an old mule path from George Washington's time that now is the longest hiker/biker trail on the east coast. Beautiful views of the Potomac river and surrounding areas, turtles by the dozen in the canal and lots of cool birds overhead. It was good to crank round circles in a steady rhythm on the dirt surface of the path with the sun shining bright.

Sunday, feeling the same lack of desire to hit the local goods, I opted for a mixed bag. Pulled out the skinny tired fixed once again, took a road route from the house into the park and then took some trails out to Ellicott City. From there I cranked up steep paved hills out of the river valley and worked my way through hidden neighborhoods tucked in the cover of another section of the Patapsco State park.

When the pavement runs out an old jeep road picks up, full of chunky rocks, swooping turns and lush green growth. Popping out into another developed section of the park, I work my way over to a little loop of singletrack. Only a couple of miles long and not normally worth riding because of it's brevity. This section of the park has a few trails but not enough mileage to make it a destination. Today though, on skinny tires, it's a blast with it's technical rocks and tight twisties. When I'm done with this I jump out of the park and onto Route 40, with cars whizzing by at 50+ mph, to cross the river via bridge. Back down to river level I start working my way back, this time on the top of an old earthen dam. This is a fun little piece of singletrack, basically flat, but with obstacles, rocks and logs. It presents fun challenges on the fixed gear and little tires and in some sections the price for failure is tumbling down 20 - 30 feet off the edge of this skinny piece of dirt that once funneled water to a mill downstream. This is the kind of riding that gets the fire burning again.

- riderx


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