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Month: June 2010

Mountain Bike Trails at River Bends

Those of you who regularly read what I write and pay attention to biking stuff will know that I will frequently ride at Shelby Township’s River Bends Park, located a scant four miles from my house. In the past few months the MMBA, with me providing representation for this project, has been working with Shelby Township to develop new multi-use single track trails in the park. While the MMBA is a mountain biking organization, the trails we build are perfect for biking, hiking, trail running, and numerous other activities, so we’re an ideal organization to build new trails in a park.

Yesterday we had our first full trail day at River Bends, an event which brought out 15-ish people to help finish off Phase 1 of the trail. A few of us had started work prior to the Trail Day, but yesterday did the bulk of the work. We now have just over a mile of new single track winding its way along a ridge between some existing two-track and the Clinton River floodplane. If you’d like to see a KMZ of the route that we completed yesterday it can be found here.

Now, time to polish up any little quirks in the current trail and move on to thinking about Phase Two.

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Very Lucky Shot

On the way home from work today a bird evidently got in a very lucky (for me) shot. This bit of bird dropping fell, just barely missing me, and ending up right on the joint between the seat tube and the top tube.

If you’d like to see the route I took home from work (same as the route to work, but mostly downhill), you can find it here: 25-Jun-2010_Work_To_Home.kmz.

I’ve also got two more photos from biking today if you’d like to see them: my bike parked outside work this morning, and my shadow on the Clinton River Trail while riding along somewhere in Rochester.

Now, time for bed. Tomorrow’s lined up to be lots of manual labor, hopefully wrapping up the first phase of some new, park-approved single track trail at River Bends Park.

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Squished Squirrel, Squished Banana

Riding to work along the Clinton River Trail this morning I happened upon a squirrel, which is not unusual at all, until I ran over it. Typically animals see you coming and do their best to dash off to hide in the woods, but this squirrel, laying in the middle of the 12′ wide gravel path, ducked down, waited until I got within 15 of it, dashed off into the brush, then immediately back out in front of me, running in a small circle twice directly in front of my tire before I hit it. Thankfully only my front tire hit it, and when I looked back I caught only a brief glimpse of it ducking back into the brush.

While squishing the squirrel (and throughout the ride) I was apparently also squishing my post-ride banana. While the skin didn’t rupture, a fair part of it was mashed into a nice banana gel which tasted surprisingly sweet and good. It was a bit of a hassle to eat, but the taste made it worthwhile. I think that a bowl of well-mashed banana, topped with (real) whipped cream, and some nice oaty biscuits (HobNobs?) could make for quite a treat.

UPDATE: Now that I think about it, hitting the squirrel felt not unlike the time I hit a discarded banana in the road. A little slick, a slight sliding/rolling feeling, and an ever so slight bump.

Front wheels generally have less weight on them, and while I definitely hit a squishy part of the squirrel, there wasn’t a noticeable thump or bump as I went over it, so hopefully I hit a less-essential part and its still alive.

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Felt Demo at Stony Creek

Despite not feeling up for riding to work I still went to a Felt Bicycles demo over at Stony Creek after work. I’d wanted to try out some of their 29er hard tails and maybe a road bike, and thankfully I had no problem doing either.

I ended up trying out four bikes, a 26″ full suspension, 29″ carbon fiber hard tail, super-light (and expensive) road racing bike, and a single speed coaster brake cruiser, as follows:

· Felt VIRTUE 1: Five inch travel full suspension mountain bike. I didn’t care for this very much as it was far squishier than I would like, but there’s a good chance it simply wasn’t set up right. This was my least favorite bike of the demo.

· Felt NINE Elite: Hard tail carbon fiber 29er with Reba Race fork. This bike fit very well, and I enjoyed riding it quite a bit. It almost makes me want a 29er hard tail; a new bike that I probably couldn’t justify.

· Felt F1 SL: I asked for a 56cm road bike to try, and this $6999 professional racing level bike was the only one available. Being the first drop bar bike that I’ve taken a proper ride on made this quite an interesting experience. No matter how hard I pushed it felt like the bike could go faster, and I frequently found myself zipping down the road quite quickly with surprisingly little effort.

· Felt SLANT: Very comfortable, great looking coaster brake cruiser. This is not a bike to ride far, but just something to poke around a park on and enjoy yourself.

After the demo I took a few minutes to throw a leg over the Felt F75X which Erik had taken for a ride, but as I didn’t really take it anywhere I couldn’t form much of an opinion on it. It seemed really nice, though.

Now it’s time to get some sleep so I can (hopefully) ride to work tomorrow. Hopefully the weather will stick to the forecast and remain relatively nice and rain free.

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No Bike Commuting Today

As of last night I’d wholly intended to ride my bike to work today, packing it and getting everything ready to go. Unfortunately, when I woke up this morning I realized that I simply couldn’t. My throat is hurting a bit, I feel physically run down, and I’ve got a constant, groggy / spacey feeling. Either I’m getting sick, or I just need a good, long sleep. I’m hoping that instead of being sick the cumulative lack of sleep from the past week, and a whole weekend of not sleeping well has done me in and I just need some proper night’s rest to feel better, but as I’m rather accustomed to working on little sleep I fear it’s actually illness. If I’m not feeling any better soon I may have to call off my plans for the rest of the day.

I just hope that I’m feeling better for Saturday morning for the River Bends Park Trail Day with the MMBA where we will likely be finishing the first segment of new single track trail. Along with some other folks I’ve spent quite a bit of time over the past couple months planning it, marking the route, working with the township, and doing initial cutting and clearing of the trail, so I’m really looking forward to seeing this first piece finished.


Paint Creek Trail Dust

This has been a good weekend. After my sister’s wedding (to a nice guy who I think is all right and will be good for her) I ended up back home on Sunday with some time to work on my bike and go for a ride.

So, after cleaning up the drivetrain (it’s been almost six months since I got the Titus Racer X 29er) I took a quick ride from Rochester Mills (Beer Co.) up the Paint Creek Trail (and via some back routes) to Bald Mountain Recreation Area (North Unit) and back. After getting back to Rochester I took a quick spin through the two-track at Bloomer, located the hole-in-the-fence access out the back side of the park, then headed back to my car.

As seen above and in this photo, riding the Paint Creek Trail leaves quite a bit of limestone dust on one’s bike and parts. I’ve had people warn me that such grit will ruin bearings quite quickly, but I tend to think that the grease on such parts will do its job and keep the grit out of the important areas.

Riding through Bald Mountain itself left me covered in both bug bites and irritations from plants. Some of the trail (in particular the connectors) is becoming quite overgrown, and riding through them means a few minutes of continuous rubbing up against all the local foliage; Some of it even reaches out and grabs your bike, as happened today when the metal cap on the rear derailleur cable went missing.

Worse than the botanical irritation is the flies and mosquitoes in Bald Mountain, which fly fast enough to land on you at 10 MPH, and swarm behind you (waiting for you to slow or stop) at 12 MPH. The occasional downhills are the only savior, as one can then lose the flies. Still, despite all of this, I ended up with a horse fly in my helmet. Thankfully it didn’t bite and just allowed the mosquitoes to do their thing.

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Riding Problems!

I seem to be having problems riding my bike lately. First, I fell last night, toppling over after failing to ride over a log pile at Stony Creek. I made it up the one side, lost momentum, and was in too high of a gear to pedal and just fell over. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but I fell right on the multi-tool that was in my jersey pocket, landing with it between me and the log that I fell on. Now I’ve got a sore butt, with the injured bit being right where the toilet seat sets when I’m sitting down and having a chat about horses. When falling I also landed on my backpack, and while instinctively trying to keep my head up I pulled some neck muscles. Thankfully this should all cease hurting by the weekend.

Today when out riding at Stony Creek I just happened to get a pinch flat on my rear wheel, causing it to lose all of its air in a few seconds and leave me stuck at the side of the trail swapping out a tube. Thankfully I had a bottle of 100% DEET with me, so I was able to mostly keep the mosquitoes at bay for the few minutes that I was stuck fiddling with things. After fixing the flat I hadn’t quite pumped it up as full as needed (a test ride showed this), but thanks to the KLM Stump Pump I had no problem filling the tire up properly before riding back to downtown Rochester.

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To Work and Back

With the weather forecast saying that rain shouldn’t start until after 7pm it seemed like a good weather day for bike riding. Despite having my car back I fitted the pannier setup to my bike, and set out for work. I set out just after 7am, arriving at work just over 1:06 later. As the day wore on and rain got closer, the forecast rapidly changed to having rain arrive sooner, so I left work a bit early, riding quick, hitting rush-hour traffic, and made it home in four minutes less than it took to head to work. After getting home I was then able to finish up work before heading off to the grocery store, then to Sherwood Brewing Company to meet some friends for dinner and beer.

Here’s a couple photos from today, all of them better than the weird, blurry, self-shot photo of me riding on the Clinton River Trail, somewhere between Hamlin and Adams:

· Riding down the Clinton River Trail, heading east, between Hamlin and Adams.
· My bike propped up against a column under Rochester Road along a branch of the Clinton River. I stopped here briefly while riding home from work.
· My bike outside of VGs on the bike rack which they installed after I asked them to fit one. I rode up to buy beer and bagels after riding home from work.

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Working Car!

This broken bolt is the reason for Sunday’s car failure. When it broke the serpentine belt tensioner came free, likely becoming lodged somewhere, and causing the car to cease working. Because the bolt broke off flush with the engine block and was in a particularly hard to reach place, the engine had to be lowered 2″, the bolt drilled, and then the bolt removed with an easy out / screw extractor.

As a result there was $187.54 in labor to fix the problem, with the bolt, new serpentine belt, and other misc parts only being $78.01. With the $100 for towing, this failure cost just under $400, which I guess isn’t too bad. It’s a bit frustrating that this comes only two weeks after paying my car off (early), but timing on this is really very random.

The guy at the shop (Shelby Tire) said they spent a while trying to figure out the cause of the broken bolt, but the AC compressor, power steering pump, and all other devices connected to the serpentine belt seemed fine, including the tensioner. The only cause he could figure was that the bolt was weak (or failing) and the AC kicked on just as the power steering kicked in, and the extra load on the belt snapped things. As I was turning a corner out of a parking lot having just turned the AC on when the problem happened, this makes sense. Hopefully it won’t happen again.

(This is also the first RAW photo that I’ve processed in the newly released / installed Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3. One of its new features is markedly improved sharpening, and I must agree that it’s much better. After all, just check out those knurls on the screw head.)

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