Wednesday, 26 July, 2006

Single Trackin’, Baby!

Posted in Biking at 3:03 pm by glpease

Yeah. That’s what I’m talking about! Happiness is finding a fun trail 2.2 miles from home. Joy is when that trail is a cool almost-single track that has apparently not seen another bike in forever. I’m not quite sure if it’s a fire-trail, or just left over grading from some past construction, but it’s there, it’s accessible, and it’s mine to ride.

Today was the first day in over a week when the temperature would allow anything more energetic than a saunter between the house and the air conditioned car. It’s been spitefully hot, and I wilt when the temperature rises much above 80˚F. The thermometer says it’s 92˚F now, but there’s a breeze, and it doesn’t really seem that bad. It’s been driving me nuts, not getting out to ride, so I figured I’d chance it, and climb out of the oven (we have no AC in the house) to take a ride on the fire side. After a couple miles, I spotted what looked like a trail head, and followed it. At the end of the paved section, a little bend to the left leads to some gravel and some big fun.

The first section is a fairly steep uphill on loose gravel, rocks and dirt, requiring constant attention to balance; too far back on the bike, the front wheel washes and lifts; too far forward, the rear refuses to bite. (I wonder how the new Maxxis Cross+Marks will do here when I get them.) It’s been a while since I’ve done this kind of riding, so most of my attention was on keeping the bike on the trail, upright, with me above it. More than once, the strong urge to dab almost won, but I resisted and persevered, and managed to make it up to the next section, a lighter grade of hard-pack and sparse, low vegetation that was easy to avoid.

This was just plain fun – keeping the pace up, dodging the plants, giving the rear end some freedom while the front tire dug in just right. The few holes in the ground were easy to navigate around, and I got to concentrate on the terrain, sussing out a good route for my later descent.

This didn’t last long, transitioning to some serious, often occluded rutting in hard dirt with knee-high, dry grasses and a pair of narrow tracks where the grasses had been crushed from the last time a vehicle was up here – probably in late spring.

The grasses whipped my legs, and horseflies seemed to be everywhere, fascinated with my face. Every couple feet, one would buzz my head, land on my shades, crawl behind the lens, land on my arm. I’m trying to pick my line, avoiding the deeper troughs, balance the bike, maintain some pace, swat at flies, blow on the ones in front of me. I’m sure from a distance I resembled a meth addict waving away invisible spiderwebs.

When I reached the top of the climb, and looked down, still swatting at files, I decided to mark off that part of the trail as the next adventure. I suspect that if my legs weren’t already itching, and the flies weren’t as tenacious as dachshunds, I’d have continued, but, instead, I opted to turn around for the dive back down.

The descent was over far too quickly. I love climbing, and most of my riding is focused on getting some thrust up hills more than it is on gliding down them, but I won’t lie and say that the drops aren’t serious fun, especially when they’re just a little technical. I had a couple of “moments,” almost shoveling into a trough or two (along with the instant recall of previous endos ), the bite getting a little too vague for comfort in the gravel (I suppose the gravel would have scratched the persistent itch from those damn grasses), but without some risk, there’s no thrill, right? I made it home, and the intrepid rider nearly fell off his machine in front of his own house. Now, THAT would have been embarrassing had anyone been around to bear witness…

Next time out, I’ll try some Benadryl cream before I leave to keep the itching down, and take the rest of the trail to see where it goes. Wish me luck with the horseflies.

High points: A wicked, quick descent over a variety of terrains, from pock-marked and furrowed, to hard-pack, to loose as a goose; A third ring, high cadence, wind at my back ride home; Finding a fun place to do some trail riding so close to home.

Low points: Tall, dry grasses – my legs will be itching until next Tuseday; Horseflies; The final uphill home after a 22mph flight along flatter roads – somehow, 9mph seems SO damn slow after that; that it was over too soon.

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