Thunderstorm, Rain, Beginner Trail

This past week, on the day I’d planned to mow, thunderstorms came through Stepford and rain spoiled my planned yardwork.  The clover, oniongrass, bees, and squirrels out there are pretty happy about it.  The robins, less so, as they like to forage after the mowing.  I was pretty angry at first, then suited up in my silly looking MTB kit consisting of Fox red and gray jersey (purchased several years ago for spring and fall kayaking), gray Endura shorts (silly-looking, plain shorts – super comfortable and functional), black Dickies ankle socks (LOVE them), and 10 year old New Balance Eight-Oh-Something trailrunners (easily the best, stiff-soled non-bike specific cycling shoes).  Padded mesh liner shorts underneath, as well as old compression T-shirt (another colder-weather kayaking garment).  Road helmet and cheap crochet-back fingerless road gloves.  Check.  Gatorade in the cage-bottle, random Cliff Bar, Power Bar.  Yup.  Ready to go.

Clothes for MTB ride

Clothes for MTB ride

Bridgestone-MB-4-Onrack

New Balance 806 - dunno how many years old.  Best shoes I own.

New Balance 806 – dunno how many years old. Best shoes I own.

Briefly indecisive and moody about potential safety concerns vis-à-vis thunderstorm, then I decided thunderstorms are not dangerous and set off.

TVA Access Road

First destination was a TVA access road other side of a yellow gate on a dead-end street near a water treatment plant located above a reservoir.  I’d ridden part way down it on the Miyata once, but turned back when probability of a crash became clear to me.  I drove out there and parked by the yellow gate.  While still in the car, I applied bug spray to my exposed skin (it’s bug season in Middle Tennessee).  About a half mile down the road, I turned off to follow a brush and grass covered lane, following it to a point where I stopped, took a swig of Gatorade, and stood still for a couple of minutes.  Buzzing is the sound I heard and focusing my eyes upon the plants growing all around me, I saw that I was surrounded by about a hundred bees.  Thinking they’d soon be attracted to the red sleeves of my jersey and sweet Gatoradey goodness in my water bottle, I slowly and calmly turned around and went back the way I’d come.

Gray-MB-4-Yellow-GateTVA-Road

Then, I rode the rest of the way down the hill.  Not trusting completely in the work I’d done on the Bridgestone’s headset, I descended cautiously downhill as the road’s surface condition became characterized by large holes, deep ruts, wilderness debris.  My top speed, I think, was less than 19 mph.  The bike’s front-end seemed to be holding together pretty well, but I wasn’t sure about it.  I became acquainted with my bike’s need for replacement handgrips, an acquaintance that would renew itself later in the day.  Also brought to my attention during the descent was my need for new pedals when my right foot came off the cheap, plastic platform pedal it was pushing when the bike’s front wheel made contact with the far side of a pot-hole-rut across the path.  Made steering difficult, that whole foot-off-the-pedal incident, but I didn’t cash, then.

At the bottom is fenced and gated pumping station I’ve seen many times from the water, while paddling.  Riding back up the hill was less eventful, even though steep the ascent.  The entire ride was registered less than three miles.

Mountain Bike Trail

My second destination was a group of purpose-designed mountain-bike trails I’d read about online.  Familiar with the location, I drove out there and found the access point without difficulty.  Mine was the only vehicle parked in the gravel lot near the trailhead.   While taking the bike from the rack, I again heard thunder.  The ground and foliage here was wetter than the TVA access area, and it looked like the bike trails were all back in the trees.  Although the information board had a box and plastic case for trail maps, the person tasked with keeping it filled with same had failed to complete that mission.  A notice on the board declared a “Beginner’s Trail” of one mile could be identified by orange markers.  Okay, I’d try that first.  Underneath the information board, I discerned a painted ceramic gnome in repose; it didn’t look like anyone’d been leaving offerings to the idol, which was okay with me.

Bridgestone-MB-4-Trailhead

In the woods was sufficient light to see the path, stupidly narrow, and winding between large and small trees, hard-packed clay soil, shiny smooth roots, rocks, all slick-as-snot from the earlier rainfall.  I seemed to quickly lose the orange path, which I thought would make a good warm-up, and started coping with steepish descents, countless slick roots across the trail, avoiding trees, using the brakes way too much.  I was grateful for any ascent and happy I’d got a set of Velociraptor tires for the bike; the back wheel spun a few times on roots and slippery track, but quickly gripped and never let me down.  My feet during this ride did not come off the pedals because I was more careful to keep them on; still, I’m thinking Sun Ringle ZuZu pedals or the Nashbar knock-off will be needed.  Constant wrist-rattling bumps on the trail reacquainted me with the need for new grips.

Crackling-SkyWoodland-Trail

While riding, I remembered reading that these trails were opened in 2009 and my mountain bike dates from 1989.  The sales catalogue for the Bridgestone MB-4 refers to it as an “almost custom” bike that is almost suitable for racing, as opposed to mere recreational riding.  I thought it might be a good idea to ride this bike on the sorts of mountain bike courses laid out in the late ‘80s.  I remembered reading snippets of reviews of bikes going on about “technical” portions of trails and wondering what that meant.  I also was thinking, “Without these Velociraptor tires, I’d be totally dead, or something.”  Also remember thinking the entire course is probably beginner-grade, super easy trails most nursing mothers would be able to ride with their babies held to the teat with one arm while easily steering with the other, clipped in to pedals and spinning effortlessly through the trails.

Besides having no real confidence in the bike’s headset and steering, what I found most difficult about riding the trail was having to figure out three or four twists ahead what to do by the time I got there.   Average speeds on a road bike are a lot faster, but the decision-making process is slow-motion in comparison to what I think is probably termed ‘singletrack’ riding.  At one point, I came out of the woods under crackling power lines and drank some Gatorade and ate a Cliff Bar.  I took a picture, you can see it above.  I checked the locknut on the headset here, and found it way loose; having no adjustable wrench, finger tightened it.  I had to to that a couple of more times during this ride.  The adjustable race or whatever, though, wasn’t loose at all.

The most annoying thing about riding in the woods was constantly riding through spider webs and not having the time to brush them away.  No time to scratch my head when it itched, and no time to think about taking pictures, although on one totally flat and  nonthreatening section, I did snap a couple.  Too busy trying to stay on my bike and keep pedaling to drink when thirsty was also irksome.  Descending through a left turn with soggy leaves filling a rut at the outer edge, I slid out on the leaves and crashed.  Does a middle aged man cuss in the woods when he crashes?  The spiders, bugs, and trees know.

Thanks to Cyclemeter, I was able to find my way through the maze of trails back to where I’d parked the wagon.  Under seven miles, top speed of 15.83 miles per hour, but average speed of 6.17 mph.   I was happy to see this upon emerging from the woods:

Out-of-the-WoodsVelociraptor

Longer Rides

This week, I’ve taken a couple of longer rides.  The first I’ll call 35 miles, although Cyclemeter indicates it was actually 34.98 – I should’ve ridden around a bit in the neighborhood to round it out before stopping at the house.  The second registered about 23 miles.  Stopped time is traffic lights, checking the map, eating a snack.

From Tuesday’s ride:

June 3 RideI-24-West

From Wednesday’s ride:

June 4 RideMiyata-Stepford-Vista

Headset, Suteki, Jet 20, Tooth

Bridgestone MB-4 Headset replaced (mostly) with Tange Levin headset, but for spacer had to use an additional lock-washer from the original headset as well as the original headset's locknut.
Bridgestone MB-4 Headset replaced (mostly)
with Tange Levin headset, but for spacer had to use
an additional lock-washer from the original headset
as well as the original headset’s locknut.

Yes, I know it looks rough, but it is finally done.  You have no idea how difficult it was for me to get the fixed cones set into the headtube and that other part pressed onto the fork.  After that, about four attempts to assemble the headset, fork, handlebars were required to get everything put together correctly with brake and gear cables right and left of the headtube and fork.  Also, I learned that the locknut that came with the Tange Levin replacement headset wouldn’t tighten down very far on the fork’s steerer tube, so I used the locknut that came with the bike’s original, generic headset.  One more disassembly after I discovered there remained a gap between the shiny new lock-washer and the locknut, which I resolved by adding the original black lock-washer as a makeshift spacer.  I rode the bike around the neighborhood and my bumpy yard, yesterday, and the repair seems sound enough.  It’s good to have the Bridgestone back – I haven’t had it to ride since Easter weekend.

Flashy-Suteki

Shiny reflectors

Because the Bridgestone had been out of service for so long, I started riding my wife’s Suteki around the neighborhood and local bike path with my young son.  Because the seat’s already been adjusted for The Cautious One, I didn’t raise it to suit me, just pedaled with bent knees like a supplicant or one of those morons who ride bikes made for children.  There was a funnier thread about those guys at prince.org – a Prince fan-site (that doofus has fans?) – but my browser quit responding every time I opened the page. 

Suteki-&-RocketSuteki-Rocket-Rack

Anyway, that Suteki bike is a pleasure to ride, early Shimano 600 derailleurs and shifters work so smoothly and predictably that indexed shifting would seem clumsy in comparison, and for $40 in nearly new condition is more than a match for Public’s mixte and has a lugged steel frame that’d cost an arm and a leg if made by the serious cyclists at Rivendell.   A couple of weeks ago through Craigslist, I located and bought an older Trek Jet 20 with Alpha Aluminum frame; cost way less than half the price of new.  Needs new grips but is otherwise in excellent condition.  My son’s learning to ride the bike without training wheels, but isn’t ready yet to take it out in the neighborhood or on the bike path with me.  The features he likes best about the Trek are that he can ride it on the grass in the yard, and that it has a kickstand.

Trek-Jet-20

Finally, instead of needing a root-canal, my dentist was able to repair my molar with a filling – a lot less time and money spent and I can eat normal food again.  Ate my first salad in a month, last night.