Archive for the ‘outdoors’ Category.

Danielle Saves The Day

84 rides, 2367.44 miles, 213:44:52 is how long the freehub on the Shimano FH-M785 from the Salsa El Mariachi Ti lasted. Today while out on a longish ride (intended to be ~6 hours) with Dana, heading north on Hosner Rd. just north of Drahner (Google Maps), the freehub seized up and the wheel would no longer coast. This happened very briefly last night while riding at River Bends with Danielle, but it was only a gentle tug feeling before it let go again, so I figured it was only transient or something that wouldn’t have been a big deal.

Unfortunately, it was. After acting quirky a couple times over fifteen minutes, and once somewhat badly while riding up Markwood, it went very wrong on the descent from the monastery. Flipping the bike over, it only did this: video. I pulled the wheel, found that it was VERY difficult to advance the freewheel, Dana called her husband Josh (a professional bike wrench) for suggestions, and then I called Danielle for help. She ended up driving out to where we were — about half an hour away — bringing my single speed so I could finish the ride. Sure, it wasn’t great spinning along at 100 – 120 RPM on rail trails and dirt roads, but it worked out pretty well and very surely saved the ride. We were able to do another 54 miles, including some of Bald Mountain South, a full lap of Bloomer, and most of River Bends before calling it a day.

Unfortunately, neither of us had realized just how close we were to doing a century (100 miles). Had I not reset my bike computer during bike changes I would have known to put in another 10 miles… I had plenty of energy and food left, so it wouldn’t have been a problem. Oh well.

Here’s the data for today, as seen in Strava: Part 1: Gears / Part 2: Single Speed.

A Fine Day


Despite being a bit frazzled at times, today has been a pretty productive day. Due to the snow this morning I worked from home, but I got a fair bit of stuff done all while being able to listen to good music, watch a snowstorm outside of my window, bisected by the tasty lunch shown above†. There are definitely less comfortable ways to work.

After this I was able to:

  • Wash the salt off of my fatbike and experiment with some different techniques for cleaning off salt residue (none of which were successful). Thoroughly cleaned the somewhat-rusty (thanks, salt and lazyness!) drivetrain.
  • Figured out a likely reason why the fatbike has been ghost shifting: a partially-separated plate on the chain. This was easily fixed with a chain tool.
  • Went snowshoeing with Danielle, Erik, and Kristi to pack down the mountain bike trails at River Bends. This was my first time using snowshoes somewhere other than near home, and thanks to the four of us the trails should now be fatbikable and mostly prepped for ¡Ay CRAMBA It’s Cold Out!.
  • Shoveled the excess snow out of the parking spaces that both our neighbor Rick and I regularly use. These had been plowed, but as the plow can’t get right to the curbs, hand-shoveling the final bits helps keep the spots nicely open and accessible. I don’t like shoving the grill of my car into a snowbank to fit in a spot.
  • Ate some really tasty chorizo nachos that Danielle made for dinner.
  • Mopped the laundry room floor in cleaning up from bike washing, then did a the dishes.
  • Get started on some new signage (Coroplast ordered, vinyl spec’d / requested) for River Bends and other CRAMBA trails. Frustratingly, someone has stolen a number of the signs at River Bends and they now need to be replaced.

So, while I felt a bit frazzled and frustrated at times, overall this has turned out to be a quite fine day.

† A hot smoked salmon topped with herbs and an English muffin (Bay’s, of course) topped with cheddar, butter, scrambled eggs, and harissa.

2014 Huron-Clinton Metroparks / Oakland County Parks Passes are Poor Quality


The 2014 Huron-Clinton Metroparks / Oakland County Parks pass is much lower quality than the ones from past years. Starting this year the sticker has a few changes which make it much harder to apply: the backing is split instead of starting at a tab at the top, and the white background fill is alcohol soluble. Because of the split backing I had a much harder time applying it and ended up with a slightly wrinkled sticker, and cleaning the window post-application wiped off some of the white paint and left it smeared all over the window. With the tear-off top of the decal being perforated along the top of the decal itself this also means that the top edge is rough and can’t be evenly smoothed.

I much prefer the older style decal, as I could easily get it applied smoothly in the lower corner of my car window (photo) and passing over the sticker while cleaning the windshield didn’t wipe white paint all over the lower reaches of the glass.

UPDATE: When I attempted to use the Contact Us page on to relay this concern to park management it returned an ASP error that I believe was trying to give me an HTTP 500 (Internal Server Error) so I tried using the listed email address, which then bounced saying recipient not found. That’s worse quality than the passes. Time to dig up some real people’s addresses.

On-One Floater: Traction for Days

This evening I left work a little early to squeeze in a ride at River Bends before it got dark, and this ended up being a great evening. Because of a freshly fallen quarter inch of snow and a few days of below-freezing temperatures the ground was a beautiful white, and clearly visible and ridable half an hour after the sun had set. Riding comfortable along the ridge, sun just below the horizon, looking down at the oxbow lakes (ponds, really) along the Clinton River looking at the leafless grey-brown trees and mottled white forest floor was incredibly beautiful. I would love to have what I saw captured in a photo, but it’d be so difficult that I didn’t bother to try.

Besides just getting out for a ride, one other intention for today is to try out the On-One Floater tires (package photo) that arrived last week. I purchased these hoping for something with a similar knobbiness as a Surly Nate, but a bit cheaper. Last year I’d picked up a Big Fat Larry for the front, moving the original Larry to the rear, and while this was a decent setup it left me wanting for more traction in snow. While the Nate would have been my tire of choice for this, at $128.74 (shipped) for a pair of Floaters they are (per tire) less than half the MSRP of a comparable 120 TPI Nate. Roger picked up a pair of the Floaters earlier this year and was happy with being happy for general trail riding, so I figured I’d give them a go.

Last night I set them up with 20 PSI to seat and stretch the tires to shape, then today I rode them at 11 PSI (rear) and 9 PSI, and I’m really happy with them. At 1460g and 1462g each they added a total of 172g (0.38 pounds) to the bike, which is nothing to be concerned with given the radical increase in traction. The center / transition knobs are about 5.1mm tall on the Floater, versus ~3.15mm – 3.5mm on the Larry / Big Fat Larry, and they have a very square-ish shape as opposed to the Larry’s ramped triangle shape. Width came in at ~3.85″, which is a bit shy of the 4.0″ printed on the sidewall, but still a very acceptable width. On the Mukluk’s 82mm Surly Rolling Darryl rims the furthest-out side knobs are parallel with the sidewall, giving the whole setup a great profile and feeling. Here’s two photos showing tread detail: 12.

Normally with the Larry family tires I’d get a controlled, comfortable bit of slide/drift in corners; something which was very predictable and worked nicely. When on frozen surfaces it’d get a bit weird, and would at times wash out if I pushed a bit too hard. I wasn’t able to make the Floaters behave in the same way, and coupled with the deeper tread I think these will meet my desire for a snow fatbike tire.

Oh, and that monster truck feeling when one first gets a fatbike and rides through rough surfaces with impunity, holding lines that would have been considerably harder on a skinner tire bike? Tonight I had that feeling again while riding the frost heaved Swamp Loop at River Bends. It was rough, bumpy, crunchy, icy, and oh-so-much-fun.

This Is How It Gets Done

A scant 3.5 years ago the MMBA Metro North chapter, now known as CRAMBA-IMBA, finished completion of the first phase of official mountain bike trails at Shelby Township‘s River Bends Park. Today we had another trail work day to give the trail a nice autumn cleanup and the rerouting of a couple problematic spots.

It’s pretty amazing to me how things like this come together. A group of us, who generally all get along and work well with each other, came together and worked to make something that we enjoy even better. Even though the specific mechanics still baffle me, this is how it seems to work: people with a wide variety of skills but a common interest come together, self-organize, then volunteer their time building publicly accessible facilities that the entire community can enjoy.

As a community we essentially have two ways of making new public resources exist: we can either pay for something (via taxes, with all the overhead of getting this to happen), or we can make it happen ourselves doing the work without direct compensation, something generally known as volunteering. Parks typically don’t know what mountain bikers actually want, so for building new bike-accessible trails the best way is for us to get like-minded folks together and work with the parks to make it happen. This is what we did, and just like countless other locales across the country there are now trails that we all enjoy.

The trails at River Bends aren’t particularly challenging, but more people than I can remember have told me about getting started riding these trails. This was the goal, and it makes me, and surely everyone who has worked on these trails, very proud. We do good work.

(The photo above shows, from left to right, a number of people who were out at today’s trail day. In the top row: Mark Johnson, Erik Silvassy, Mark Senyk, Roger Class, Mike White, Rob Wedding, Bob Costello, Jeremy Verbeke (Co-Trail Coordinator at River Bends), Rodney Gullett, and Deanna Velasco. Second row: Aaron Burgess, Steve Vigneau (me, the other Co-Trail Coordinator at River Bends), Art Fleming, and Jeremy Kozak. Down in front is Jude, who is Mike White’s son and a perpetual presence at trail work days. Not pictured are the folks who were had to leave early or were out grabbing food for the rest of us, including Greg Kuhn, Chris Goddard, Erik Silvassy, Kristi Heuvers, Erick Mile, Katie Mile, Nick Shue, Marty Shue, or Pete Kresmery.)

Remarking the Seasonal Loop at River Bends

River Bends is going to have a bit of remarking at the CRAMBA-IMBA trail day this weekend, and in preparation I removed most of the the wrong-way signs from the segment formerly known as the Seasonal Loops. A number of these signs were no longer necessary, and a handful of them had been shot with airsoft pellets to the extent that they weren’t very readable from a distance.

At some point in the next year or so I hope we are able to replace many of these with more permanent Carsonite-type fiberglass markers (such as this one at Bloomer), but for now it’ll be more of the same corrugated plastic and vinyl markers, color coordinated with the map.

Iceman 2013: Wet Sand and Fun

I was going to write a somewhat lengthy post about this year’s Iceman Cometh Challenge race and put together some bullet points about the race for things that I wanted to cover, but I can’t bring myself to flesh it out into a complete post. Instead I’ll just post the bullet points themselves, expanded a bit to be solid on their own. It was a very fun race, a nice day, but not eventful in any way that makes me want to write a lot. I simply enjoyed myself, saw lots of friends, and had a great weekend with Danielle:

Here’s those bullet points:

  • Wet sand.
  • Large, infrequent mud puddles.
  • Raining as we left Traverse City, but stopped on the way to Kalkaska.
  • Really friendly people: no problems with passes either way.
  • I thought my HR monitor was reading high, but it was either consistently off by a few tens of percent (never seen this before) or I was able to ride harder than expected for extended periods of time.
  • My official result: 14 1374 Steve Vigneau Shelby Townshi MI 9:59:35 10:48:13 2:19:11
  • Four minutes faster (would have been doable) and I’d have been in the top 10. Oh well.
  • Started in Wave 9, almost missed my start as I was using the toilet when everyone was lining up. Took longer than expected when I got done 9 was moving up to the start area.
  • Chain drop behind cassette on a steep climb when downshifting somewhere after Anita’s Hill. Unsure why: sand? Can’t reproduce.
  • Not spent at end, could have pushed more.
  • YouTube video of my finish: link.
  • Strava data: link.
  • Congrats to people who won things: Joe Seidl, Brad Lako, Alex Gonzalez, John Osgood
  • Person who died:
  • Someone got hit by a car riding away from the finish area on the road. No word on their condition.
  • Foods consumed: ~2 hours of Infinit (from a 3 hour bottle), ~40oz bottles of water in pack, caffeinated gel before hand.
  • Clothing: Pearl Izumi boots, tall wool socks, plain black thermal knickers, Under Armor thermal base layer, summer jersey, Pearl Izumi AmFib gloves, cycling cap, helmet, glasses.
  • Photos of me:

The photo above? That’s just of some random sand still on my bike a week after the race. There’s so much wet sand and grit on my bike that it really needs a drivetrain cleaning before I ride it again. It was okay during the race, but as I’d switch to a less-used gear combo there’d be a few minutes of scraping sounds as the sand worked its way off the cogs.

Stony Creek Lake is Low


Much of the water has been let out of Stony Creek Lake at Stony Creek Metropark so repairs can be made to the dams, and this means that the shore is far wider than normal. Stony Creek Lake is a man-made lake, so once the dams are opened the level goes down dramatically, exposing the typical clay soil of the area. As much of this has dried out it’s possible to ride much of it on a fatbike with the tires aired down.

This isn’t quite the same (or as exciting) as proper beach riding but it’s still something different and fun.

Yesterday I was in a poor mood and headed out to Stony Creek for a nice, slow, exploratory ride before Danielle and I met friends for dinner out in Ann Arbor. This ride helped clear my head and let me enjoy the nice autumn evening. The weather has been perfect this time of the year, and I really didn’t want to miss out on it.

Data from the ride can be seen here in Strava.

Google Maps Bicycle Routing Issues

Google Map Maker allows most anyone to edit Google Maps. Someone has been using it to add all of the trails at Stony Creek, including the very small paths and foot-only trails. In general I’d think this is a good thing, but for some reason they are ending up being listed as bicycle routes. Some of these (such as the MTB single track) are inappropriate for general bicycle route designation due to their rugged character, while others (such as the Nature Center Trails) are simply closed to bikes.

While putting together some route ideas for a ride tomorrow I ran into my first actual issue with this; Bicycle routing directing me to the Nature Center hiking-only trails while making my way through the park. (See the image above or here.) While I know to avoid them, I suspect this is going to be a growing problem for some with finding bicycle routes in the area, particularly for those who aren’t willing (or prepared) to ride off road. I could also see it leading to conflicts with some users insisting it’s open to bikes “…because Google said so”.

Time to file some bug reports and get the bicycling designation removed…

Full Day at Poto

As Nick said, driving out to Potawatomi (the mountain bike trails at Pinckney State Recreation Area) for the 8-hour ride I was supposed to do on Memorial Day Weekend was probably the best drive time to ride time ratio ride I could have for that trail. Leaving the house at just after 7am put me on the trail at around 9am, and this weekend was some amazing riding. The trail conditions were perfect, I was able to make every climb cleanly on the first try, and I didn’t have any “oh crap!” almost-falls. It was all I could ask for.

I ended up getting in four laps of the full trail, which gave me 73.12 miles completed in a moving time of 07:42:04. My total time for the ride was 08:37:27, with the gap time eaten up by stopping to urinate, a visit to the toilet between laps two and three, filling water at the pumps, and eating a tasty Danielle-made protein bar while stopping to talk with some folks. This was a bit short of the 8-hour prescription, but I imagine it’s close enough. (Strava data for the ride can be found here.)

I had brought supplies for and somewhat considered a fifth lap, but I was feeling a bit tired and wanting to get home. This would have put me out on unfamiliar (and rapidly emptying) trails until ~8pm without emergency lighting, which would not have been a good idea. Especially not when creeping up 10 hours of challenging trail…

The photo above was taken on one of the boardwalks along the route. I believe this one to be near the end of the Gosling Lake Loop in the north end of the system, but I may be mistaken. This one stood out to me more than many of the others because of how the grass is grown up along side and through it, giving a feeling of riding on a plank sidewalk through an unmowed field.