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Category: weather

A Wish Fulfilled

Ever since beginning to do mountain bike trail work and seeing the effect of a heavy storm on trails I’d wanted to see this first hand. Today I saw this, and no longer wish to. JD Harvey and I were part-way through the more remote parts of some single track at Stony Creek when a hail storm arrived. Trees fell around us, an inch or two of 1-2cm hail fell in minutes, and we had to ride rough single track near-blinded to get out. This makes for a good story, but something that I do not wish to repeat.

Today’s weather was quite excellent, and after plans with Joy and Mark there was a bit of time, so I decided to go for a first-ride-of-the-season at Stony Creek on the El Mariachi Ti with the CroMoto Grande rigid fork. Not long after beginning the 6/12 Hour route I ran into JD riding his new fatbike, so he and I began riding together. After completing one lap we decided to start another, planning to part ways at the Swamp Cutout of the Roller Coaster so he could ride home to Rochester and me to the car. Not long after starting it seemed to be getting dark quickly, but we pressed on as we normally would have been out of the trails within fifteen minutes. Just before reaching the end of the Saturday/Sunday Reroute, within the span of 30 seconds a bit of rain spat, then the wind kicked up and hail began.

Unlike my usual experiences with hail and thunderstorms — where it lasts for a few moments before changing to torrential rain — this didn’t let up.

As we made our way to the climb to the Rest Area I called for us to stop and walk up the hill to save time, something which seemed to be over in a flash. Descending from the Rest Area to the Swamp Cutout was a haze as riding instinct took over. Whenever I’d look up from the trail I’d see branches and whole trees falling in what appeared to be a fog of painful ice. I fell briefly when rounding a small drop/corner (same places as here, five years earlier) due to my wheels rolling out from under me on the ball bearing-like ice, but save for interrupting our escape this was uneventful. Once getting down to the Swamp Cutout we found that the entire forest was covered in 1-2″ deep balls of quickly melting hail.

The usual route back to the parking lot, straight from marker 29 to 2 was blocked with an immense tree, so we turned back, detoured along the single track by marker 3. Between that point and the parking lot we had to climb over at least three more trees, and make a last-minute duck to avoid the neck-height wire which had fallen across the trail. I’m very fortunate this wasn’t a live power line, as I saw it just in time to duck, glancing my helmet off of it.

Once back at the car I quickly packed my bike inside, put JD’s on the rack, then got us both in the car with the heat turned on high. The photo above (and this one) were taken near the exit of the West Branch parking, as the hail began to melt. The river-like washes through the hail were exactly that: places where water was flowing down the pavement channeled through the ice. While packing the car this was flowing over my feet, something which I paid no mind as I was just happy to be out of the woods.

While this was quite an adventure, the worst storm I’ve been caught in, a good experience, a fulfilled wish, and something for good stories, I do not want to repeat it. We both were very fortunate that we didn’t get caught up in any of the falling trees, didn’t crash in a serious way, nor encounter any other catastrophe. Simply having wet/dirty bikes, some welts (I’ve got a large one on each forearm and a sore finger), and a story to tell show just how fortunate nature was with us. This shouldn’t be pushed a second time.

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Winter Snow by Streetlight


Here’s a photo, looking out my office window early on January 6th, 2014, of the snow that’s fallen. I was bored so I cleared off my car and shoveled the area around it earlier today, but much of this has been covered back up by drifting, blowing snow. It’s really beautiful, but if the next couple days’ forecast for particularly cold weather holds true I’ll likely find it to be a bit much.

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2013 Thanksgiving Morning Ride at Pontiac Lake

Since 1999 Robert Herimann has been hosting a Thanksgiving morning ride at Pontiac Lake Recreation Area. I’ve wanted to attend for a few years, but the timing has never really worked out for me. This year it did, and I’m really glad that I went. It was my first ride at PLRA both on a fatbike and in the snow.

The drive out to Pontiac Lake became snowy and promised an interesting ride, but having the Mukluk and winter clothes with me (as has been the norm for the past couple of weeks) I was content and ready to go. Almost all of the trail looked like what is seen above with the snow, frozen leaves hiding and lubricating the surface, and icy rocks. The ride was a bit exciting and traction was a challenge at points, but it was still a good time. I had a really fun time and made all of the climbs (including the one after the chute) except for Three Mile Hill, where someone stopped in front of me at a point where there wasn’t room to pass. A bit lower tire pressure might have helped as well (I had 11 PSI rear, 7 PSI front on the Larry / Big Fat Larry combo), but I went with something slightly higher than normal to cut down on the chance of pinch flatting.

About half-way through the ride I switched from motoring along, trying to keep up with others, and just began poking along slowly, looking out at the incredible views. I’ve only ever ridden PLRA when there were leaves on the trees; I didn’t realize just how many beautiful ridges it went along. There are spots where I could have stopped and stood, looking out at the snow drifting down for hours. But, I was having too much fun riding. I’ll have to make another trip here this winter; I really enjoyed it.

A mirror of the traditional group photo can be found here, if you’d like to see it. I count 62 participants, and I’m just to the right of the right-most Handicapped Parking sign, in a yellow Trail’s Edge jacket and black helmet. I’m surprised there weren’t more fatbikes on the ride, only Jay Jones, myself, and a guy I didn’t recognize on a 2012 Mukluk 3. (The announcement post, showing the group photo for each year since 1999 can be seen here. The guy in the photo above is just someone who passed me after I stopped to take the photo. I’m not sure who he is.)

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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.

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Massive Fallout 2013: Single Speed Edition

When I woke up this morning for the highly-anticipated Massive Fallout ride it was raining, the ground was wet, and there was a threat of continued precipitation throughout the day. With the forecast calling for the dripping to cease at 9am I decided to ride the Salsa El Mariachi Single Speed instead. It was already a bit dirty, and I really prefer to ride a single speed when there’s the chance to ride sloppy trails and roads, as the simplified drivetrain really cuts down on wear and the potential for things to go wrong. A clip-on fender was added to keep spray off of my rear end, which is quite nice during longer days.

While I’d never really considered a single speed an appropriate bike for me to do long endurance-ish rides, I figured it was worth a go. Having been fitted with a suspension fork in anticipation of PSSWC this seemed like as good of time as any, and it worked out quite well. I missed the gears in a few places (slow climbs, dirt roads, the PCT), but it was comfortable and removed concern about grinding parts down with wet grit.

The group I was with ended up finishing the whole route, save for skipping the upper ridge and switchbacks in Bloomer as not everyone in our group was comfortable on those segments. We finished by riding over to the Stony Creek main entrance and visiting the Trolly and Fitness Trails before riding the paved path back to the main parking lot. My computer logged a total of ~60.47 miles with an ride time of 5:38:16 (out of 6:59:52 total). Unfortunately the wheel magnet was bumped early on so this is mostly GPS/GLONASS data and thus less accurate (as deatailed here for the GPS-only Edge 500) and full of false pauses, so the actual value may be a little higher. The data in Strava can be found here.

Massive Fallout is my favorite group ride. During my first year of riding (2008) I rode with Rob Ritzenhein and Jeff Wood, having an incredibly great time. It was hard, but I finished, and I enjoyed it. I strongly suspect that the friendly folks on that ride and the comfortable atmosphere are a big reason why I kept enjoying the social aspects of the local MTB community. For this year’s event I ended up meeting Wendi and Jered in Stony Creek and riding with them, adding Ian to our group for the final half. This was really fun, and exactly what I wanted out of today: a long, beautiful autumn ride on some of Southeast Michigan’s best mountain bike trails with friends.

Oh, and the rain that was threatening all day? It didn’t arrive until almost 10pm at night, long after we’d finished.

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Pre-SF Shakedown Ride

When riding the Macomb Orchard Trail, I’m finding that I prefer starting out at the 25 Mile and Shelby intersection, not the traditional Dequinder trailhead and Onyx parking lot. Particularly with riding after work, this eliminates the need to cross two busy roads during peak traffic and makes the drive from home quite a bit easier.

Needing to do a bit of a shakedown ride on the Jamis Nova before shipping it off to San Francisco I decided to ride pavement to keep it clean, and this ended up being a really nice time. Rode out to Richmond first, trying to keep my heart rate in Zone 2 and cadence between 90 and 100 RPM. This worked fairly well, and after returning to the 25 Mile and Shelby intersection I carried on to the trail head at Dequinder and back, using this as a cool-down so my legs wouldn’t get immediately sore after stopping.

Here is the Strava data for this ride. There was no stopping save for traffic and a brief break to urinate. Even the Richmond end was a gentle loop around the paved circle at the end before heading back. This felt good, and once I got to the car I could have continued on quite a bit further, but with the sun being down and serious cold for this time of the year (mid-40s) setting in I was ready to be done.

The bike behaved almost fine, but I’ve got a little bit of drivetrain adjusting to do (and another test ride) before it gets packed up. Things were mostly fine, but somewhere around the middle of the cassette the chain wouldn’t shift smoothly, so I need to check the derailleur hanger and give things a final tweak.

This evening’s weather was almost perfect for riding. By wearing knickers I was quite comfortable, although I could have used slightly heavier gloves as post-ride I was having difficulty using my phone and signing the receipt for dinner.

This was a good ride.

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Barry-Roubaix: The Clothing

Rob’s post on Barry-Roubaix which included a description of the clothing worn made me want to note the same thing. Not for any reason of style, but because I find dressing for longer cold weather rides to be a bit confusing for some (they sure were for me!), so I hope these notes can help others in a similar situation. (It’s also an excuse to post this photo of Roger, Nick, and I just after starting the race.)

Saturday’s weather in Hastings was right around freezing. My bike computer recorded an average temperature of 32.5°F during the race, and the temperature when I last checked the weather before leaving for the start was 28°F. There wasn’t much wind, but being a road race I had to be ready for 10-20 MPH headwinds throughout the day, plus more while riding down some hills.

Here’s what I wore, which is fairly typical for me in these conditions:

  • Pearl Izumi Barrier GTX Shoes
  • Generic Kirkland (Costco) Tall Wool Socks
  • Voler Thermal Bib Knickers (Trail’s Edge logo from team order)
  • Under Armor Thermal Base Layer (usually a generic Costco one, but this was a gift and is more form fitting)
  • Voler Short Sleeve Jersey (Club-Cut, Full Zip, Big Ring Coffee from team order)
  • Voler Wind Jacket (Trail’s Edge, also from team order)
  • Descente Coldout Beanie
  • Giro Xar Helmet
  • Pearl Izumi Gavia Gloves

For other rides around this temperature or colder I’ll often use Trail’s Edge Moose Mitts with springtime-weight gloves. I really like these for keeping my hands warm and bike controls accessible, but on warmer days like this when I’ll be trying to push myself (such as a race) they can get too warm. Thus, just as during Iceman, I opted for simple gloves. Regardless of what I chose for keeping my hands warm they always seem to get painfully cold within the first 5 or 10 miles, then suddenly warm up and be fine for the rest of the ride. I guess that must when I warm up and my internal thermostat decides that there’s sufficient heat that some can be spent on warming extremities.

I’ll also tend to refrain from shaving my head or face for 4 or 5 days before an event like this. The bit of scruffy facial hair does a great job of keeping the cold away.

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Chilly Evening MOT Ride

This evening I headed home from work early enough to get a ride in, and found myself parked at Onyx and ready to go at about 5:15pm. Being in the 40s I was fairly comfortable in a jersey + wind jacket, knickers, and autumn-weight gloves at the beginning, but by the end of the ride it wasn’t enough. With the sun setting temperatures were dropping, making it cold enough that I was shivering in the car on the drive home and needing a long, hot shower before I could feel my toes.

The route ended up taking me to Armada and back, and on the way out I got to experience my first serious leg cramp after trying to push myself hard for ~10 miles straight. Just as I stepped on to my pedal to cross 32 Mile Road my right calf clenched, and I had to stop for a few minutes afterward to let it loosen up. It felt odd throughout the entire rest of the ride, but thankfully never got as bad as when it’d locked up.

Not long after turning back in Armada I crossed paths with Tom Payne, with us seeing each long enough to say hi and hit hands (or whatever that thing you do when passing people where it’s sort of like a high five, but not up high and not with a full hand). I kept pushing on back towards the car, keeping an eye on the setting sun, when not long after passing through Romeo I received a call from Danielle asking for help while she was in a spinning class. It seems that the cleat had come off of her shoe becoming stuck in the pedal, and she was looking for suggestions for how to get it back out. I was cold enough at this point that I had difficulty holding the phone, but a few minutes of rest did help warm my hands again.

Just as I was taking off from the phone call someone a guy named Chris rode up behind me, and he and I ended up finishing up my ride together. He does mostly road riding and thus was pushing along at 19-20 MPH for most of the route. I was able to keep up riding side by side for most of it, but as we got near the end I tucked in behind him and drafted for a bit. 30-ish miles of road-ish riding is a fair bit for me, and not being accustomed to that kind of sustained output I really needed the help.

This ended up being a very nice ride. While I was cold it was great to see someone I knew, get to ride with someone else, and just to get out and about. The photo above was taken at my turnaround point near the grain elevator in Armada. The Strava data for the ride can be seen here, showing what seems like a weirdly straight route. That’s how it goes this time of the year, though.

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Falling Into Lake Huron in January

I can now say that I’ve fallen into Lake Huron, on a bicycle, in January. And it wasn’t a big deal.

Taking advantage of this weekend’s unseasonably warm weather (almost 60°F in mid-January along the lake!), James and I headed out to Lakeport State Park to ride on the beach and generally explore whatever we could find in the area. This was a good time, netting 2:12:16 of moving time poking around on beaches, exploring random trails in the park, and poking around some roads necessary to get around sea walls that people had built straight out to the water line. While we were able to ride around a few of them, many (as seen in this photo) simply extend out across the beach to the water line.

Due to Lakeport being a good ways north, there was also quite a bit of snow to be found both in the woods and along the beach. While poking along the beach we happened across a snow and ice-topped sand bar and decided to ride on it. This generally went well, but at one point my front wheel slipped slightly, and the place where I chose to put my foot was undercut ice, which I immediately broke through. I then tried to put my foot down on the sand below it, but being waterlogged and quicksand-ish I sank in it and toppled over into the lake, submerging most of the left half of my body and soaking my shorts, jersey, shoe, glove, and part of my bag.

The photo of me at the top of the page was taken by James just a few moments before I toppled gracefully into the water.

This was nowhear near as bad as it could have been, as I didn’t really feel cold so we just continued riding. I slowly dried off, and the rest of the ride (roughly another 1.5 hours) was great. The worst part was my left foot which had become completely waterlogged, coupled with my lack of socks due to forgetting them at home. No blisters were formed, and my foot was just starting to wrinkle by the time we were done, so everything was good.

We even found a bit of beach treasure (a Made in the USA stainless steel spoon for James and three quarters, two pennies, and one nickel all in a single pile for me) while riding along! Despite this, I think I’ll seek out a different destination for the next beach ride. This was a lot of fun, but I’d rather find a place where the beach can be ridden much further in a given direction.

The route ridden today can be seen here on Strava, and here’s some photos: